Loyola University Chicago thinks it can do a better job making CAR-T therapies for patients. And now it has the money to launch a pilot program to do just that.
These cell therapies rely on cells extracted from patients, reengineered into attack vehicles pointed at cancer cells and then re-infused into patients as therapy. Up until now, Loyola has been using the CAR-T drugs on the market from Novartis and Gilead/Kite. But once it starts up its own manufacturing operation, it plans to make it available in Chicago and “beyond.”
“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, Loyola’s director of hematology/oncology research and division director of hematology/oncology.
Some common side effects, including cytokine release syndrome, force a large percentage of patients into the hospital. And those expensive hospital stays add significantly to the cost. If Loyola can do a better job with their purified cells, they can keep this more of an outpatient procedure, expanding the population and including more Medicare patients.
Novartis in particular has had problems with manufacturing, unable to develop therapeutic-grade doses in some cases. That leaves doctors and patients frustrated by the snafus, which may continue for some time.
The Leukemia Research Foundation is backing the work, offering a lead gift of $250,000 to Loyola University Chicago.
The cells will be made at the McCormick Tribune Foundation Center for Cellular Therapy in Loyola’s Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center. Researchers are planning a Phase I and Phase II study to test CAR-T cells on patients, determining how much better they can be.
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