Cancer Patients Offered New Therapy at Spectrum Health

FDA-Approved CAR T-Cell Therapy Now Available

Pipette drop of stem cells research fluid in a vial held by forceps

January 7, 2019

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., January 7, 2019 Spectrum Health Cancer Center is now able to offer a new procedure, and more hope, to cancer patients.

This breakthrough in the fight against cancer uses a patient’s own white blood cells to seek out and destroy cancer cells. It is called CAR T-cell therapy, an FDA-approved immunotherapy for adults with certain types of blood cancers that have not responded to traditional cancer treatments.

Spectrum Health is the only cancer center in the region to offer CAR T-cell therapy for patients with refractory or relapsed lymphoma. The adult blood and marrow transplant (BMT) team started treating patients in December. Spectrum Health is one of 68 select medical centers in the United States to offer this treatment commercially.

“It is very exciting to be able to offer this new form of therapy at Spectrum Health,” said Stephanie Williams, MD, division chief, Adult Blood and Marrow Transplant program. “CAR T-cell therapy signals a new age in the battle against cancer. It is wonderful to offer this treatment close to home for our patients.”

CAR T-cell therapy is considered immunotherapy, which has been called the “fifth pillar” of cancer treatment, alongside surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and targeted therapy. Immunotherapy uses the patient’s own white blood cells to combat the cancer cells in the body. The results have proven so positive that the FDA rapidly approved its use for children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and adults with advanced lymphomas.

Specifically, with CAR-T therapy, T cells are removed from patients and sent to a lab in California to be modified with the Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) gene. The “engineered” cells are returned to the Spectrum Health Cancer Center for infusion into the patient in order to seek and destroy cancer cells. More details are available here.

“The patients who undergo CAR T-cell therapy have tried other treatments that were not successful. Immunotherapy through CAR T-cells has given them new hope,” said Dr. Williams.

Dr. Williams adds that this therapy would not have been available locally without the existence of an adult BMT program and philanthropic support through the Spectrum Health Foundation. The Spectrum Health Cancer Center’s Adult BMT program has provided more than 500 patients with blood and marrow transplants since it was established six years ago.

Spectrum Health is a not-for-profit health system that provides care and coverage, comprising 31,000+ team members, 14 hospitals (including Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital), a robust network of care facilities, teams of nationally recognized doctors and providers, and the nation’s third-largest provider-sponsored health plan, Priority Health, currently serving over 1 million members across the state of Michigan. People are at the heart of everything we do. Locally governed and headquartered in Grand Rapids, Michigan, we are focused on our mission: to improve health, inspire hope and save lives. Spectrum Health has a legacy of strong community partnerships, philanthropy and transparency. Through experience, innovation and collaboration, we are reimagining a better, more equitable model of health and wellness.

Sarina Gleason
Media Relations
Phone: 517.256.5618