CAR T-Cells: Plans for 1st Chicago Center to Produce | Loyola Medicine
Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Loyola to Become First Chicago Center to Produce Cancer-Fighting CAR T-Cells

Extreme close-up of cells
MAYWOOD, IL – Loyola University Chicago and Loyola Medicine have announced plans to become the first Chicago center to produce cancer-fighting CAR T-cells to treat leukemia and lymphoma.
CAR T-cell therapy has been shown to be remarkably effective in treating cancer patients who have failed standard treatments, but it is expensive and can cause severe side effects. Loyola is planning on producing a more purified CAR T-cell product that potentially could reduce toxicities and costs.
The Leukemia Research Foundation is supporting the research with a lead gift of $250,000 to Loyola University Chicago. The media are invited to cover the gift presentation Wednesday, Sept. 26 at 6 pm in the John and Herta Cuneo Center, Alumni Room, 1st Floor, 2160 S. First Ave., Maywood.
CAR T-cell therapy harnesses the patient's immune system to fight cancer. In the Loyola clinical trial, T-cells will be collected from the patient and sent to Loyola's clean lab. There, the cells will be genetically modified to target and kill cancer cells. Millions of these engineered T-cells then will be infused back into the patient. (T-cells play an essential role in the immune system. They flow through the bloodstream to fight viruses, bacteria and other foreign invaders. CAR T is short for chimeric antigen receptor T-cell.)
Loyola is among the Chicago centers that have treated patients with CAR T-cells developed by pharmaceutical companies. Now Loyola will be the first Chicago center to produce its own CAR T-cells. The cells will be made available to other centers in Chicago and beyond once initial testing is completed.
"We're working to develop a more pure CAR T product that would lessen toxic side effects and potentially increase the number of eligible patients," said Patrick Stiff, MD, Loyola's director of hematology/oncology research and division director of hematology/oncology. Dr. Stiff is directing Loyola's CAR T research, along with Michael Nishimura, PhD, program director of immunologic therapies.
Kevin Radelet, executive director of the Leukemia Research Foundation, said supporting CAR T research "directly aligns with our mission of funding medical research and enriching the quality of life of those touched by these diseases."
The Leukemia Research Foundation, based in Northfield, Illinois, has awarded $30 million in research grants to more than 500 researchers and more than 200 research institutions in 13 countries. The Foundation also is providing $1.67 million in "New Investigator" grants to 12 young researchers during the 2018-2019 fiscal year.
Loyola University Medical Center participated in a groundbreaking clinical trial of CAR T-cell therapy published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The multi-center study included patients with certain types of large B cell lymphoma who had failed standard treatments. Forty-two percent were in complete remission after 15 months – a remarkable result since most patients had exhausted all other treatment options.
The study found that 95 percent of the patients experienced at least one severe side effect. By producing a less toxic product, it may be possible to move the expensive inpatient therapy to an outpatient setting.  This could allow many more patients to be treated, including Medicare patients who comprise approximately 50 percent of the lymphoma population. 
The CAR T-cells will be produced in the McCormick Tribune Foundation Center for Cellular Therapy in Loyola's Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center. The center provides a super-clean environment to produce pure cell populations free of contamination from fungi, microbes, etc.
Loyola's cellular center complies with strict standards set by the Food and Drug Administration and National Institutes of Health. Loyola has used the cellular center to produce cancer-fighting immune cells for clinical trials in melanoma and ovarian cancer patients, and other trials are planned. Also, Dr. Nishimura is producing immune cells for an NIH clinical trial on an experimental treatment for kidney cancer.
Loyola initially will test its CAR T-cells on patients with acute lymphocytic leukemia and B-cell non-Hodgkin's' lymphoma who have failed standard treatments. A Phase 1 trial will determine the effectiveness and toxicity of the CAR T-cells. Then, a Phase 2 trial will determine the effectiveness of the CAR T-cells in a larger patient sample, consisting of patients from throughout the Chicago area.
Loyola will offer CAR T-cells to other medical centers in this region, across the country and even globally to advance the science more quickly.
The Leukemia Research Foundation's support of Loyola's CAR T-cell research arose out of a casual conversation Dr. Stiff had with foundation officials about Loyola's CAR T-cell research. "We realized there were synergies between our goals and the foundation's goals," Dr. Stiff said.
Mr. Radelet added, "We are thrilled to be able to support this groundbreaking research in Chicago, where the Leukemia Research Foundation has a large footprint."

About Loyola Medicine and Trinity Health

Loyola Medicine, a member of Trinity Health, is a quaternary care system based in the western suburbs of Chicago that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, MacNeal Hospital and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services from 1,877 physicians throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital in Maywood that includes the William G. and Mary A. Ryan Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, Illinois's largest burn center, a certified comprehensive stroke center and a children’s hospital. Having delivered compassionate care for over 50 years, Loyola also trains the next generation of caregivers through its teaching affiliation with Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine and Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. Gottlieb is a 247-licensed-bed community hospital in Melrose Park with 150 physician offices, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park. MacNeal Hospital is a 374-bed teaching hospital in Berwyn with advanced inpatient and outpatient medical, surgical and psychiatric services, advanced diagnostics and treatments. MacNeal has a 12-bed acute rehabilitation unit, a 25-bed inpatient skilled nursing facility, and a 68-bed behavioral health program and community clinics. MacNeal has provided quality, patient-centered care to the near west suburbs since 1919.

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic healthcare systems in the nation, serving diverse communities that include more than 30 million people across 22 states. Trinity Health includes 94 hospitals, as well as 109 continuing care locations that include PACE programs, senior living facilities and home care and hospice services. Its continuing care programs provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually. Based in Livonia, Mich., and with annual operating revenues of $18.3 billion and assets of $26.2 billion, the organization returns $1.1 billion to its communities annually in the form of charity care and other community benefit programs. Trinity employs about 133,000 colleagues, including 7,800 employed physicians and clinicians. Committed to those who are poor and underserved in its communities, Trinity is known for its focus on the country's aging population. As a single, unified ministry, the organization is the innovator of Senior Emergency Departments, the largest not-for-profit provider of home health care services—ranked by number of visits—in the nation, as well as the nation’s leading provider of PACE (Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly) based on the number of available programs.