CAR T-cell therapy is a revolutionary, individualized immune cell therapy used to treat cancer. To administer this state-of-the-art treatment at Sheba Medical Center, a doctor first extracts blood from the patient and sends it to the on-site Oncology Training Laboratories. Presently, Sheba is the only center in Israel that has a lab for preparing and engineering CAR T-cells.
At this highly specialized lab, the T-cells, a type of immune cell, are separated from the rest of the blood cells and genetically engineered to produce CARs (chimeric antigen receptors). The modified T-cells are given time to multiply in the laboratory until there is a sufficient amount to inject back into the patient. Now though, as a result of the CARs, the T-cells behave differently – they are programmed with the ability to identify, target, and destroy tumor cells.
While the T-cells reproduce in Sheba’s laboratory, chemotherapy is delivered to the patient to suppress their immune system. This is done to help maximize the efficiency of the modified T-cells once they are injected into the patient. Altogether, the CAR T-cell therapy process takes approximately 10 days, and patients generally remain hospitalized for about two weeks for observation.
The first child with leukemia to be treated with CAR T-cell therapy in Israel achieved total remission. Since then, the success rates for achieving remission have been 85-90% in young children, approximately 80% in teenagers, and approximately 70% in the total adult population.
In October 2019, a ceremony was held to mark 130 patients treated with CAR T-cell therapy at Sheba Medical Center. In the words of Prof. Yitzhak Kreiss, Director of Sheba Medical Center, “[This] ceremony represents a transition from vision to courage – the creation of a world where CAR T-cell therapy becomes a standard part of the institutional care we offer to patients. This treatment is a connection between science and research, between laboratory capabilities and regulation, and most importantly – between all of the above and the patient. That’s our wonderful story – a tale of partnership and progress.”
Now, Sheba is excited to promote the availability of CAR T-cell therapy for patients with multiple myeloma. Additionally, patients with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) with 8;21 translocation and CD19 expression, can receive the immune cell therapy as part of a clinical trial at Sheba. Sheba is the first and currently the only medical center in the world to offer CAR T-cell therapy for AML.
Prof. Arnon Nagler, Director of Hematology, announces, “The ground-breaking CAR T-cell treatment that was applied at Sheba for over 130 patients suffering from ALL or NHL, is now approved for use in patients with multiple myeloma as part of a clinical trial. Moreover, Sheba is the first medical center in the world to pioneer CAR T-cell therapy application for AML patients with 8;21 translocation and CD19 expression. Patients interested in undergoing this innovative treatment at Sheba will be offered a full diagnostic procedure to determine whether this treatment is a suitable option for them.”