New therapy at Morristown Medical Center uses patient’s own immune cells to fight their cancer
Summit, NJ – Atlantic Health System is treating patients in a new Phase 2 clinical trial of CAR T-cell therapy at Morristown Medical Center. A select number of sites across the U.S. are involved in this study, which is done on an outpatient basis. The study is sponsored by Juno Therapeutics, Inc.
The study’s principal investigator, Mohamad Cherry, MD, medical director of hematology for Atlantic Health System Cancer Care, is a nationally known expert at treating and researching blood-related cancers such as lymphoma, leukemia and myeloma. Dr. Cherry is triple board-certified in internal medicine, hematology and medical oncology.
“A type of immunotherapy for lymphoma known as CAR T-cell therapy has generated a great deal of excitement within the medical community, because it involves using a patient’s own immune cells to attack their cancer,” said Dr. Cherry. “Two types of CAR T therapy are FDA-approved (tisagenlecleucel, or Kymriah and axicabtagene ciloleucel, or Yescarta) for certain types of advanced or recurrent lymphoma. Other CAR T-cell therapies for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, including the one we are testing, are now in clinical trials.”
“We are excited to achieve this milestone – offering lymphoma patients CAR T therapy at Morristown Medical Center’s new Breakthrough Treatment Center,” added Dr. Cherry. “So far, patients with aggressive B cell lymphomas receiving approved CAR T therapies respond to the treatment almost 80% of the time.”
In CAR (chimeric antigen receptor) T-cell therapy, immune cells known as T cells are removed from the patient’s blood and altered in the lab to have specific receptors (chimeric antigen receptors) on their surface. These receptors can attach to proteins on the surface of lymphoma cells. The T cells are then multiplied in the lab and infused back into the patient’s blood, where they seek out the lymphoma cells and launch a precise immune attack against them. Both the currently approved lymphoma CAR T-cell treatment and treatments in clinical trials do not require that the patient be hospitalized while receiving treatment. CAR T-cell therapies are designed for patients whose lymphoma has relapsed.
The current clinical trial is an open-label (all patients receive the study medication), multicenter, Phase 2 study in an outpatient setting. The purpose of the study is to determine the safety, pharmacokinetics (the way drugs move inside the body), and efficacy of a CAR T therapy in patients who have relapsed from, or whose disease is resistant to (refractory), two lines of immunochemotherapy for aggressive B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Study participants will be followed for up to 2 years.
“We have made great progress in treating non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma over the last several years and survival rates have increased, while there are also a number of promising therapies and treatment approaches now in clinical trials,” Dr. Cherry said. “Among the treatments available to patients are targeted therapy, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, stem cell transplantation, immunotherapy and, very rarely, surgery.”
He added, “While newer types of therapy have revolutionized cancer treatment, most non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients receive chemotherapy, often as a combination of chemo drugs or in combination with immunotherapy, targeted therapy or radiation therapy,” said Dr. Cherry. “Some of these combinations are now being further studied in clinical trials, to determine the most effective combinations and doses, with the fewest side effects.”
About Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is not just one disease; there are 60 subtypes of this blood cancer, which are either slow or fast growing. Different treatments are generally used for each subtype.
Lymphoma generally develops in the lymph nodes and lymphatic tissue found in organs such as the stomach, intestines or skin. In some cases, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma involves bone marrow and blood. Approximately 85-90% of non-Hodgkin’s cases are B-cell lymphomas: they start when B lymphocytes (B cells), which produce antibodies to help fight infection, undergo a change (mutation) in a lymph node or other location in the lymphatic system. These abnormal lymphocytes accumulate and form tumors. If non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma isn't treated, the cancerous cells crowd out normal white cells (immune cells known as leukocytes), and the immune system can't guard against infection effectively.
About Atlantic Health System Cancer Care
Atlantic Health System Cancer Care offers an unparalleled network of cancer specialists and resources for more than 6000 newly diagnosed cancer patients annually through its flagship Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Morristown and Overlook medical centers, as well as its comprehensive oncology programs at Chilton, Hackettstown and Newton medical centers. With more than 250 cancer specialists, all five hospitals and Atlantic Medical Group are designated Blue Cross Blue Shield ‘Blue Distinction Centers,’ and participate in The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Oncology Care Model that supports and encourages higher quality care. Morristown and Newton medical centers earned the coveted American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer Outstanding Achievement Award and, along with Overlook and Chilton, earned Three-Year Approval with Commendation. U.S. News & World Report has ranked Atlantic Health System hospitals as high performing in colon cancer surgery, lung cancer surgery, neurology and neurosurgery, and pulmonology. In 2019, Morristown Medical Center (#28) and Overlook Medical Center (#98) were rated as some of the best hospitals in the entire United States by Newsweek in its inaugural hospital rankings.
Atlantic Health System Cancer Care is affiliated with the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) of Phoenix, Arizona, and together they have created the Breakthrough Oncology Accelerator, a pioneering research and clinical collaboration designed to improve patient access to the most innovative and sophisticated therapies for cancer.
About Atlantic Health System
Atlantic Health System - Powered by a workforce of 17,000 team members and 4,800 affiliated physicians dedicated to building healthier communities, Atlantic Health System is at the forefront of medicine, serving more than half of the state of New Jersey including 11 counties and 4.9 million people. The system offers more than 400 sites of care, including seven award winning hospitals: Morristown Medical Center, Overlook Medical Center, Newton Medical Center, Chilton Medical Center Hackettstown Medical Center, Goryeb Children’s Hospital, and Atlantic Rehabilitation Institute.
Offering a full continuum of care, the system includes Atlantic Medical Group, one of the largest multi-specialty practices in New Jersey with more than 1,000 physicians and providers, 12 urgent care centers, Atlantic Rehabilitation and Atlantic Home Care and Hospice. Facilitating the connection between these services on both land and air is the transportation fleet of Atlantic Mobile Health.
Recognized as one of the Best Places to Work by both Modern Healthcare and Fortune Magazine, Atlantic Health System attracts leaders in the field of health care, from CEO Brian Gragnolati, who is currently Chairman of the American Hospital Association, to the numerous team members who serve as leaders across a wide breadth of clinical associations and research entities. Atlantic Health System's Morristown Medical Center is named the number one hospital in New Jersey by U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, and Castle Connelly.