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The University of Kansas Cancer Center Among the First to Offer CAR T-cell Therapy to Treat Multiple Myeloma


March 28, 2021

Kansas City, Kansas The University of Kansas Cancer Center is the first and only site in the region to offer CAR T-cell therapy to treat multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer that affects about 30,000 people each year.

The Food and Drug Administration approved the use of Abecma™, a CAR T-cell therapy developed by Bristol Myers Squibb to treat relapsed or refractory (unresponsive to treatment) multiple myeloma. Multiple myeloma is the second most common blood cancer diagnosed after non-Hodgkin lymphoma in the United States.

CAR-T, or chimeric antigen receptor T-cell, is a form of immunotherapy that works by training a patient’s immune system to find and kill cancer cells. It is the latest major advancement in the treatment of multiple myeloma, which claims approximately 13,000 lives each year.

Abecma is not first-line treatment and will only be used after other more traditional therapies, such as chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation and stem cell transplants, have been tried and were unsuccessful. Patients who receive Abecma must have failed or not responded to at least 4 other forms of therapy.   

“Multiple myeloma is not curable in the majority of patients, but this treatment offers a new, effective and safe option for improved quality of life and dramatically changes the landscape of myeloma treatment for the future,” said Joseph McGuirk, DO, division director of the cancer center’s hematologic malignancies and cellular therapeutics program.

Dr. McGuirk is a national leader in the field of CAR T-cell therapy and has spearheaded efforts to offer the treatment to cancer center patients. The University of Kansas Cancer Center, 1 of 71 National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers nationwide, has extensive expertise in multiple myeloma care and the treatment of blood cancers. It provides a dedicated team of myeloma experts for inpatient and outpatient CAR T-cell therapy and numerous related clinical research trials. In addition, the cancer center was among the world’s first providers of FDA-approved CAR T-cell therapy for B-cell lymphoma in 2017.

Fighting myeloma with CAR T-cell therapy

Multiple myeloma starts in the bone marrow and affects a type of white blood cell called a plasma cell. Plasma cells are vital to the immune system because they make antibodies against foreign invaders to help your body fight off infections.

CAR T-cell therapy uses re-engineered versions of a person’s immune cells to find myeloma cells and defeat them. These cells, known as T cells, are the backbone of the immune system and normally lead the charge in killing cancer and other harmful cells.

CAR T-cell therapy involves separating T cells from the blood and, in a laboratory, genetically engineering them to include synthetic receptors called chimeric antigen receptors (CARs). These receptors actively search out cancer cells, destroying them as they would a simple pathogen.

More treatment options for patients

CAR T-cell therapy is a form of precision cancer therapy that offers new potential to cure cancers and save lives. It is being studied as an effective treatment option for other types of cancers, including liquid and solid tumors and may be available to some patients through clinical trials

The cancer center is one of only a few centers in the U.S. to offer all FDA-approved CAR T-cell treatments and multiple clinical trials.

There are currently 5 FDA-approved CAR T-cell treatments. These include:

  • Kymriah® for the treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.
  • YESCARTA® for the treatment of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.
  • Tecartus for patients with mantle cell lymphoma that does not respond to other treatments or has recurred. Kymriah, Yescarta and Tecartus target a protein on cancer cells known as CD19. 
  • Breyanzi® for diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.
  • Abecma for multiple myeloma.

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