AdventHealth Launches Immunotherapy, Clinical Trial for Blood Cancer Patients

First-of-its-kind treatment is expected to benefit specific cases, experts say.

AdventHealth, Central Florida Division External Communications
AdventHealth Launches Immunotherapy, Clinical Trial for Blood Cancer Patients

AdventHealth physicians are the first in the world to launch a pioneering treatment targeting certain blood cancers for patients who have exhausted all other types of therapy.

Antigen-Specific T-cell therapy, which is the subject of a clinical trial at AdventHealth Orlando, uses the immune cells to target cancer cells and provides what is often the final treatment opportunity for people suffering from certain types of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS).

The first patient to receive this therapy was treated in late April 2020 at AdventHealth Orlando and is recovering at home. He will be monitored to determine the efficacy of the treatment, which may take several months.

According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 19,000 people will be diagnosed with AML this year in the United States, and more than 11,000 people will die from it. The five-year survival rate for AML is 28.7 percent, while in comparison, the five-year survival rate for leukemia is 63.7 percent.

The number of people diagnosed with MDS in the country each year is uncertain, but is estimated at 10,000 or higher, the American Cancer Society reports.

“The best attribute of an immunotherapy treatment like this one is that it’s a precise, customizable, and personalized way to treat cancer for those who have no options left,” said Juan Carlos Varela, hematology oncologist at AdventHealth and principal investigator of the trial. “The relapse after traditional forms of treatment for these patients is around 40 percent. That relapse is the number-one cause of death for this patient population. Their options are very limited, and there’s an urgent need for potentially life-saving treatment options like this one.”

Antigen-Specific T-Cells are made by removing white blood cells from a donor (who had previously donated stem cells to the patient), generating immune cells that are tumor-specific, and then infusing the generated cells back into the patient’s bloodstream. Antigen-Specific T-cells can attack specific cancer cells.

“Being the first in the world to launch this therapy, and to have the lead investigator on our team, shows our commitment to personalized medicine, which is the future of cancer care,” said Mark A. Socinski, executive medical director of the AdventHealth Cancer Institute. “We’re excited to bring this innovative therapy to our patients and allow them to access this potentially life-saving treatment close to home.”

The Antigen-Specific T-Cell Therapy clinical trial and the Blood and Marrow Transplant program are made possible by the support of community donors, including the AdventHealth Foundation of Central Florida.

The original version of this story was posted by AdventHealth.

AdventHealth, Central Florida Division External Communications