University Hospitals Treat First Ohio Cancer Patient With ‘Game-Changing’ CAR T Therapy
CLEVELAND – When Ken Anderson, 61, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma 3 years ago, he didn’t know what to expect.
“It kind of hits you. It hits you hard, ”he said. “It’s blood cancer, and it’s in your bone marrow, and it degenerates your bones, it’s what it does.”
Cancer is incurable, but treatable.
“You live with it and you have to have many rounds of chemotherapy to keep the myeloma at bay,” said Dr. Ted Teknos, president of the Seidman Cancer Center at the University Hospital.
With so many unknowns, the dad of 4 daughters and grandfather of 2 knew one thing, he was going to fight.
“Just watch the road ahead,” he said.
Over the past 3 years this road has been filled with ups and downs and countless rounds of chemotherapy treatments and even a bone marrow transplant.
“They give you back your stem cells and they regenerate and last for about 6 months and then there was a relapse,” Anderson said.
Through it all, he remained optimistic for a medical breakthrough. He read the research and followed up on the results of clinical trials in what is called CAR T therapy.
“I didn’t know how far it would be. He didn’t say how far it was. It sounded like 10 or 20 years to me.
But not 20 years ago, the FDA approved the CAR T treatment for patients with multiple myeloma, and university hospitals are the first in Ohio to treat patients with it. Anderson, who is from Kirtland, is the first patient from Ohio to receive him.
“These treatments, now, are available for those who have no more options,” said Dr. Teknos.
Dr Teknos compared the treatment to something straight out of a science fiction movie.
“Essentially, it’s like a heat-seeking missile for cells to find cancer and eradicate it,” he said.
It works by taking a patient’s own white blood cells, genetically modifying them in a lab, and then injecting them back into their bodies so that the patient’s cells can fight off cancer cells.
“They’re going to design them to attack my cancer cells,” Anderson said.
Dr Teknos calls it “living therapy”.
“You take live cells out of a patient, you modify them, then you grow them in the lab, then you inject them back into the patient,” he said. “It’s their own cells that have been altered and fight cancer. “
Dr Teknos said that in clinical trials around 75% of patients with multiple myeloma responded to treatment and in 1/3 of patients their cancer was gone.
“It really is a game-changer,” Dr Teknos said. “There are patients who literally had weeks to live and then a year and a half later who have no cancer at all.”
Anderson’s cells are currently in the lab. He will receive his infusion next month. He is cautiously optimistic that the next leg of his journey will make him feel better.
“I won’t need to do chemo anymore, so I’m back to feeling like I would be really hot,” he said. “The people out there that’s been diagnosed with this, with this disease, know that we’re about to do great things here in the treatment of this disease, and that’s a huge step forward.”
While Anderson is currently battling multiple myeloma, university hospitals are also offering a new CAR T cell therapy treatment for patients diagnosed with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.