The Froedtert & MCW Blood and Marrow Transplant (BMT) and Cellular Therapy Program offers CAR T-cell therapies and other cellular therapies for patients with certain types of lymphoma and multiple myeloma.
- A unique CAR T-cell therapy approach developed by MCW physicians and researchers in a phase I clinical trial used autologous T cells engineered to recognize CD19 and CD20 molecules (also called antigens) on a cancer cell’s surface. This trial, while closed, has set the stage for further study on a national level.
- New trials, including trials exploring other cellular therapies, are posted on froedtert.com/clinicaltrials when they are available to eligible patients.
- The BMT and Cellular Therapy Program also offers KITE YESCARTA® (axicabtagene ciloleucel) — the first CAR T-cell therapy to receive FDA approval for certain types of lymphoma. It is engineered to recognize the CD19 molecule on a cancer cell’s surface.
With CAR T-cell therapy, re-engineered T cells are infused back into a patient to become part of the immune system where they can then identify and attack unique cancer cells.
Who Can Have CAR T-Cell Therapy
YESCARTA is an example of a CAR T-cell therapy that is already FDA-approved, while others are being studied for their safety and effectiveness through clinical trials and offered to you after a thorough evaluation of whether you may benefit from them.
CAR T-cell therapy at the Clinical Cancer Center on the Froedtert Hospital campus is currently available through our clinical trials and with YESCARTA. These options are available for eligible patients who have certain types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (B-cell malignancies) or multiple myeloma, when the disease has not responded to other treatment such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Additional CAR T-cell therapies are being explored to treat people who have acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
If CAR T-cell therapy is not for you, be sure to ask your doctor about other clinical trials or treatments that may be best suited for your particular situation. Call 414-805-0505 for information.
How CAR T-Cell Therapy Works
The first step is a complete evaluation of your current health and your cancer treatment history. If your doctor thinks you could benefit from CAR T-cell therapy in a clinical trial or with YESCARTA — or from another cellular therapy, you’ll be connected for consultation with a physician specializing in the proposed treatment.
When you have been cleared to participate in CAR T-cell therapy, your care team will guide you through the process of preparing to receive treatment.
- Apheresis — A blood draw, followed by the process of extracting T cells from your blood in a lab.
- If you will participate in one of our clinical trials, your T cells will be brought to a Medical College of Wisconsin lab on the same campus as Froedtert Hospital for the process of combining the T cells with a receptor called CAR or chimeric antigen receptor.
If you will be receiving YESCARTA CART T-cell therapy, your T cells will be sent to a different lab for similar processing.
- In the labs, the combined cells are grown until there are hundreds of millions of them.
- Lymphodepletion — About a week before treatment, you’ll receive chemotherapy and other drugs to deplete the body of any remaining T cells, preparing you to receive the cancer-fighting CAR T-cell therapy infusion.
- At Froedtert Hospital, you will receive your personalized CAR T-cell therapy via an IV infusion in a single dose. This takes about one hour, but you may need to stay in the hospital for two to seven days. The CAR T cells multiply in the body and spread to find and attack specific cancer cells. When your doctor feels your condition is stable enough for release, you’ll be discharged home.
Is CAR T-Cell Therapy Safe?
You will be carefully monitored for side effects for 28 days after receiving CAR T-cell therapy — while in the hospital and after discharge home.
Side effects can be mild to moderate in severity, but some people experience severe, life-threatening reactions (cytokine release syndrome, neurotoxicity) that require treatment in the hospital. The 28-day monitoring period is designed to make sure there is early intervention for side effects. At the Clinical Cancer Center, physicians and clinical staff have developed and carefully follow guidelines to manage side effects that may occur.
The Froedtert & MCW 24-Hour Cancer Clinic is another resource to help with unexpected, urgent issues that may arise (pain, fever, nausea and other common, cancer-related problems) after you’ve been discharged home.
Is CAR T-Cell Therapy Effective?
While cellular therapies like CAR T-cell therapy are still relatively new — some, like YESCARTA, are FDA-approved, while others are still investigational — they are developing into promising treatments. Studies show that some patients will see a complete response to treatment (no evidence of disease after CAR T-cell therapy). Physicians and researchers are still studying new ways to engineer cancer-fighting T cells and the most effective way to use them to treat patients and extend life.
Insurance Coverage for CAR T-Cell Therapy
Individual insurance coverage will vary. Our financial counselors and navigators will help you determine your coverage and any financial responsibilities you should be prepared for with CAR T-cell therapy.
Our facility has long been accredited by the Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy (FACT). In addition, we were one of the first in the nation to receive specific FACT accreditation that enables our physicians to offer treatment with immune effectors like CAR T-cell therapy. (Immune effectors are activated cells — such as T cells — that defend the body in an immune response.)
Internationally Recognized and Experienced in BMT and Other Cellular Therapies
Our physicians are internationally recognized for their research and for treating patients with innovative cellular therapies. They were early pioneers of techniques in stem cell transplantation, immunotherapies and CAR T-cell therapy, helping discover how the body’s own immune system has the power to fight cancer. MCW hematologist/oncologist William Drobyski, MD, was among the first researchers using a donor’s T cells to eradicate cancer after bone marrow transplantation.