OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center Top 5 Enroller in Trial Testing CAR T-cell Therapy as Earlier Treatment for Aggressive Lymphoma
Published: Tuesday, January 3, 2023
OKLAHOMA CITY — CAR T-cell therapy — a treatment in which a patient’s own immune cells are genetically modified to recognize and attack cancerous cells — is revolutionizing the care of people diagnosed with blood cancers. OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center took part in a global clinical trial that led to a change in the way oncologists use CAR T to treat an aggressive type of lymphoma. The results were recently published in the prestigious journal The Lancet.
CAR T was already approved as a third-line treatment for large B-cell lymphoma, the most common lymphoma in adults. In the clinical trial, CAR T was compared to the second-line standard of care — chemotherapy and stem cell transplant — in patients whose lymphoma either didn’t respond to the first round of chemotherapy or it returned quickly. The results showed CAR T to be the superior treatment because it more than doubled the time patients had before their cancer returned. That finding led the Food and Drug Administration to move up CAR T therapy to the second-line treatment.
“This trial has changed the way we treat patients with large B-cell lymphoma. We hope that by giving them CAR T earlier, they will fare better,” said hematologist-oncologist Sami Ibrahimi, M.D., who led Stephenson Cancer Center’s participation in the trial. “When lymphoma comes back after patients receive their first treatment, they typically don’t have a long survival time. We are always trying to improve outcomes for them.”
CAR T stands for Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cell therapy. Patients being treated with CAR T first have their blood collected in a process similar to a typical blood donation. White blood cells (which include T cells) are filtered out and sent to a company that inserts the gene for a chimeric antigen receptor into the T cells. The chimeric antigen receptor then binds to cancer cells and activates the T cells. This process allows the newly engineered T cells to recognize and attack cancer with remarkable efficiency. Once the CAR T cells are generated, they are shipped back to Stephenson Cancer Center and given to the patient through an IV, much like a blood transfusion.
In Oklahoma, CAR T therapy is only offered at Stephenson Cancer Center, a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center. It is part of the center’s growing transplant and cellular therapy program.
The clinical trial was held at 47 sites in the United States, Europe and Japan. Stephenson Cancer Center was among the top five enrollers of patients.
“We are grateful to the patients who were willing to participate in this clinical trial to try to get this promising treatment, but also to advance science for everyone,” Ibrahimi said. “Our clinical trials team is also key to the success of a challenging trial like this. It takes an army to enroll that many patients and perform the required steps, and they put in a lot of hard effort to ensure a successful trial.”