The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center announced the official opening of a first-of-its-kind clinic dedicated to providing cellular-based immunotherapies for patients with cancer.
The Bezos Family Immunotherapy Clinic will allow researchers to conduct twice as many immunotherapy trials within the next year.
The clinic’s 15 care suites provide various outpatient services and allow for intensive patient monitoring of experimental immunotherapies.
HemOnc Today spoke with David G. Maloney, MD, PhD, medical director for cellular immunotherapy at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Bezos Family Immunotherapy Clinic, about the clinic and the trials researchers are conducting there to gain new insights into cancer treatment.
Question: How did the creation of this center come about?
Answer: We have had considerable success with immunotherapy, with complete remission rates for patients with leukemia and lymphoma. This led to the explosion of clinical trials and a need for a center that would be able to care for these patients. This is really where the idea for the center came about. We were originally part of the transplant service and we outgrew the space, so we were able to build this standalone unit that specializes in the delivery of cellular immunotherapy.
Photo by Robert Hood/Fred Hutch News Service
Q: What makes this center unique?
A: There are a few things that make this center unique. The center is dedicated to early-phase clinical trials — at this point, phase 1 and phase 2 clinical trials, through which we are conducting translational research directly from the laboratory into the clinic. The clinic is set up to enable research so we can provide our services directly in patient care suites, including necessary minor biopsies, bone marrow biopsies and lumbar punctures. We can administer chemotherapy, do blood draws and give cell infusions all in the unit. The center is very patient centric, meaning we bring all services to the patient instead of sending the patient throughout the building. The patient checks in at the start of the appointment and all of these services are brought to them. It is an outpatient-only center, so if patients need to be hospitalized, they are sent to the immunotherapy inpatient unit at University of Washington.
Q: What are the potential benefits to patients and clinicians?
A: From a patient perspective, it is certainly nice to have all services given in the same location without them having to run through the lab, the infusion suite and then an exam room. Everything is done at one place. For researchers, there is an advantage in terms of coordinating the intensive laboratory studies that are necessary to track cellular and therapeutic strategies. We have a dedicated research lab that processes and distributes tissue samples and blood samples to the laboratory investigators who are monitoring the study. We are really enabling the research in that we can study and track how treatments are working and progressing. This is very important both for the safety of the patient and for just being able to deliver the services.
Q: What clinical trials are researchers conducting now?
A: The center is dedicated to cellular immunotherapy. We have multiple studies with chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells that are active in the clinic for patients with leukemia and lymphoma. We also have studies on modified T cells, specifically T-cell receptor–transfected cells, when T cells are modified with an anti-tumor T cell receptor. We have tumor trials in which tumor infiltrating lymphocytes are obtained from biopsies and cultured in the cell facility and then given back after chemotherapy. These are all active trials. We also opened a CAR T-cell trial against an antigen ROR1. This antigen is expressed in a variety of solid cancers. We are starting this trial with patients who have breast cancer or lung cancer. Another ongoing study is using cultured T cells that are active against Merkel cell carcinoma, an aggressive skin cancer. In the future, we will have a CAR T cell trial in multiple myeloma.
Q: What is your ultimate hope for this center?
A: It is really enabling research at this point, and we hope to continue to develop novel therapies that can then be taken forward into commercial products. The hope is that CAR T-cell products will eventually become commercially available and that this center will be an outstanding resource to be able to safely administer these products. At this time, there are risks associated with CAR T cells, including cytokine release syndrome and even tumor lysis syndrome. So, having the teams available to safely monitor and treat patients is very important. In later years, as these drugs become approved, we will be in a place where this can be done. Much like a transplant center, this will be a center where you can receive cellular immunotherapy.
Q: Is there anything else that you would like to mention
A: We are very excited about this center. We are delighted to have the Bezos family’s involvement in the immunotherapy clinic, as they have been long time supporters of Fred Hutch. They have been very forward thinking. As far back as 20 years ago, which is really what made this happen. – by Jennifer Southall
For more information:
David G. Maloney, MD, PhD, can be reached at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, 1100 Fairview Ave. North, Seattle, WA 98109; email: email@example.com.
Disclosure: Maloney reports no relevant financial disclosures.