AdventHealth brings CART T-cell therapy to Central Florida lymphoma patients

Microscope, research, lab image

Fla., ORLANDO, Fla., Oct. 7, 2019 — AdventHealth physicians are now performing CAR T-cell therapy, which uses the patient’s own immune cells to target cancer cells, providing an additional option to non-Hodgkin lymphoma patients whose cancer was resistant to traditional treatment.

It’s the first time this therapy is available in Central Florida, and is available to patients with certain types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and who have had at least two previous lines of therapy.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2016, the latest year for which data is available, 68,403 new cases of non-Hodgkin lymphoma were reported, and 20,268 people died of the disease in the United States. For every 100,000 people, 18 new non-Hodgkin cases were reported and five died of cancer.

“Treatments like CAR T-cell therapy show our commitment to personalized medicine, which is the future of cancer care,” said Dr. Mark A. Socinski, executive medical director of the AdventHealth Cancer Institute. “We’re excited to be the first health care system to bring this innovative therapy to our region and give our patients access to this life-saving treatment close to home.”

CAR T-cells are made by removing white blood cells from a patient, genetically modifying them using a deactivated virus, and then infusing the modified cells back into the patient’s bloodstream. The modification of the CAR T-cells causes them to attack cancer cells.

“One of the best attributes of immunotherapy treatments like CAR T-cell therapy is that it's a precise, customizable way to treat cancer,” said Dr. Juan Carlos Varela, hematology oncologist at AdventHealth. “This therapy will be a turning point for those without options after traditional cancer treatment.”

The launch of CAR T-cell therapy is part of an ongoing expansion of AdventHealth’s cancer services in Central Florida. In addition to the CAR T-cell therapy for patients with lymphoma, cellular-based immunotherapies will soon be available for patients with other hematological malignancies including acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and multiple myeloma.

The CAR T-cell therapy and Blood and Marrow Transplant program are made possible by the generous support of community donors, including the AdventHealth Foundation of Central Florida.