The WVU Cancer Institute has joined the network of certified treatment centers to administer a new drug therapy for eligible patients with leukemia and lymphoma. Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy, known by the brand name Kymriah, is a form of immunotherapy that harnesses the patient’s own immune system to fight malignant cancer.

“We are excited to bring CAR T-cell therapy to eligible patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia or diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. The WVU Cancer Institute’s Osborn Hematopoietic Malignancy and Transplantation Program has 25 years of experience and is the only center in the state and one of about 50 centers in the country to offer this unique, state-of-the-art cellular therapy,” Abraham Kanate, MD, associate professor of medicine, said. “This will provide access to cutting-edge treatment close to where our patients live and have an existing support system.”

CAR T-cell therapy is performed by collecting the patient’s own T-cells and sending them to the manufacturer that genetically engineers the cells into Kymriah to fight the CD19 antigen on cancer cells and eradicate the disease. The Kymriah is infused into the patient, and he or she is monitored for side effects. Patients are required to stay within 30 minutes of J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital for the first 30 days after infusion so they may receive treatment when side effects occur.

As a certified treatment center, the WVU Cancer Institute is able to offer this treatment to patients up to 25 years old who have acute lymphoblastic leukemia that has either relapsed or is refractory, meaning the disease is resistant to treatment. It is also used in patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma who have relapsed or are refractory after having at least two other types of treatment, chemotherapy, and/or allogeneic stem cell transplant.

“At that point, there are limited treatment options to offer these patients, other than the same treatments that didn’t work before or a clinical trial,” Kathryn Webster, nursing manager for the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center Clinic at the WVU Cancer Institute, stated. “To be able to offer a new treatment that is FDA approved is amazing for these patients.

The Osborn Hematopoietic Malignancy and Transplantation Program is a certified treatment center for this new therapy. Additionally, the program is accredited by the Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy.