Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Kansas Hospital Approves New Cancer Treatment

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Kansas Hospital Approves New Cancer Treatment

Article excerpt

By Andy Marso

The Kansas City Star

LAWRENCE -- The University of Kansas Cancer Center will be one of 16 sites nationwide approved to offer a new immunotherapy that made national headlines last week as the second commercially available treatment that uses genetic engineering to target and kill cancer cells.

The therapy, called Yescarta, treats patients with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Joseph McGuirk, a doctor at KU who participated in clinical trials for the therapy, said it's part of a series of research studies that could forever change the way cancer is treated.

"In 30 years, this is the most exciting time of my entire career because we're in the midst of a revolution," McGuirk told The Kansas City Star. "What our public is witnessing is a revolution in cancer medicine and this is the most recent example of that."

The chimeric antigen receptor, or CAR-T, treatments extract a cancer patient's own immune system cells, genetically engineer them into cancer-fighting machines and then inject them back into the body.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first one, Kymriah, in August for treating leukemia.

The FDA approved Yescarta last week. McGuirk said more CAR-T treatments are in development, including some for solid tumor cancers.

"It's not hyperbole to say these are really revolutionary changes in cancer management," McGuirk said. "They truly are, and it's just the tip of the iceberg."

Kymriah, sold by Novartis, is approved only for patients 25 and under with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Children's Mercy Hospital is one of the clinical trial sites for the therapy but is not yet among the sites approved to sell it commercially, which would open it to a much larger group of patients.

KU expects to be offering Yescarta commercially within 30 days.

It could someday displace standard treatment chemotherapy as the first-line treatment for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

But for now, with limited data on success rates and a danger of severe side effects, it's a last resort.

McGuirk said it will only be available for patients who have not seen results from chemotherapy, or have relapsed after chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant. …

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