Cutting-edge cancer therapy now available through UH Cancer Center partnership

A new type of immunotherapy treatment for cancer patients, Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy, was recently made available in Hawaiʻi through a partnership between the University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center and Hawaiʻi Pacific Health (HPH).

This new treatment allows some of the sickest cancer patients to stay in Hawai‘i with family and friends for care instead of traveling to the mainland.

“CAR T-cell therapy is a very innovative and specialized type of cellular immunotherapy where we’re able to use a patient’s own immune cells, genetically modify them, and use those modified cells to fight cancer,” said UH Cancer Center Assistant Researcher Stephanie Si Lim, who is a pediatric hematologist/oncologist at Kapiʻolani Medical Center for Women & Children and medical director of the cellular immunotherapy program at HPH. “It is very different from traditional chemotherapy because it targets cancer cells with more precision.”

Lim has spent the last two-and-a-half years building the cellular immunotherapy program at the UH Cancer Center and HPH. CAR T-cell therapy is now offered to children with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia and adults with B-cell lymphoma and multiple myeloma. Here are a few milestones of this breakthrough program for the state:

  1. March 26, 2021: The first CAR T-cell clinical trial opened for qualifying pediatric patients at Kapi‘olani Medical Center for Women & Children.
  2. May 22, 2023: The first Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved CAR T-cell therapy is available for use for pediatric and adult patients in Hawai‘i.
  3. August 22, 2023: The first adult patient is infused with CAR T-cells at Straub Medical Center.
  4. October 1, 2023: Adult patient who was infused with CAR T-cells remains in remission despite having had multiple relapsed lymphoma prior to receiving CAR T-cell therapy.

“Through HPH and the UH Cancer Center’s joint efforts, we are excited to offer this important and lifesaving therapy to patients with difficult-to-treat cancers,” Lim said. “We look forward to our ongoing collaboration to expand the availability of groundbreaking FDA-approved oncology products and clinical trials for our community here in Hawaiʻi.”

New Gene-Therapy Cancer Treatment ‘Wipes Out’ Dying Girl’s Leukaemia

six year-old leukaemia sufferer who became one of the first in the world to trial a new gene-therapy treatment is smiling again – after tests revealed her cancer has vanished.

Erin Cross, of Chester, in Cheshire, was gravely-ill earlier this year with deadly acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, a cancer of the white blood cells.

But after £100,000 was raised in a public appeal on ITV’s This Morning show with Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby, in July she jetted to Seattle with her doting parents Sarah and Antony Cross.

Experimental, pioneering new AR (Chimaeric Antigen Receptor) T-Cell therapy re-engineers the cells in the lab to attack and kill cancer cells when injected back into the patient’s body.

Now her family have been told by Seattle Children’s Hospital that blood tests reveal the cancer has completely disappeared.

Leukaemia is a cancer of the white blood cells and bone marrow. Because white blood cells are found in the lymph nodes and the spleen, leukaemia can affect them, as well as other organs in the body.

Leukaemia is a complicated disease. There are several types and subtypes. The name of the leukaemia you have depends on how quickly it develops and the type of white blood cell that becomes cancerous.

In acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) white blood cells called granulocytes or monocytes become cancerous. AML usually develops quickly, over days or weeks. It is the most common type of leukaemia in adults. It is most often diagnosed in older people, and is most common in people over 65 years old.

Cancer Research UK

And it means on December 28th at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital she will be well enough to have a bone marrow transplant – to make sure the leukaemia can never return.

Mrs Cross said: “We got a call from the hospital who told us the cancer cells have gone.

“We couldn’t believe it as she has never come back clear from any treatment before.

“She is running around now like any six year old.

“I’m so glad I pushed for her to get on the trial at Seattle, if I hadn’t she wouldn’t be here today.

“I knew that the T Cell therapy would be the only option with the chemotherapy not working – mother’s instinct was working hard at that point!

“We have never had a negative MRD bone marrow test before, it’s so amazing to hear the words ‘no signs of leukaemia’.

“I just want to thank everyone from the bottom of our hearts.”

Her parents said they “cried tears of relief” after being told she was finally in remission from the disease that’s blighted her life for the past four years.

Erin had years of traditional cancer treatment but relapsed as the leukaemia came back stronger than ever.

Last June Mrs Cross appeared on ITV’s This Morning with Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby to reveal their plans to jet her to America for the treatment.

She told of their struggles to conceive Erin, undergoing seven rounds of IVF treatment, and how hard it hit them when Erin relapsed after years of intensive chemotherapy.

She said: “We just couldn’t comprehend it when Erin relapsed after sailing through two and a half years of intensive treatment.

“She put on such a brave face though, and everyone who met her just fell in love with her.”

Now the new treatment has finally beaten her cancer, Mrs Cross said they were struggling to believe their luck in getting on the trial.

She said: “I was making the breakfast when I got the phone call from the team at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

“They wanted to get the important news to us that her sample was clear of leukaemia.

“I just broke down crying. I had to hang up and get myself together and go and spend some time with Erin and Antony.”

The ‘all-clear’ revelation was explained when Mrs Cross rang the T Cell (white blood cells) team back later to discuss her MRD bone marrow test.

MRD (Minimal residual disease) are the small numbers of leukaemia cells that remain in the bone marrow after treatment – which are the major cause of the disease returning again.

But when she spoke to the US hospital team Mrs Cross was stunned to be told that the pioneering treatment had been a massive success.

They said her MRD test was ‘negative’, her spinal fluid was clear and there was no sign anywhere of even tiny amounts of leukaemia in her body.

“It’s just so amazing,” she added.


Article originally posted by The Telegraph

Cellular Immunotherapy Targets a Common Human Cancer Mutation

In a study of an immune therapy for colorectal cancer that involved a single patient, a team of researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) identified a method for targeting the cancer-causing protein produced by a mutant form of the KRAS gene. This targeted immunotherapy led to cancer regression in the patient in the study. The finding appeared Dec. 8, 2016, in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study was led by Steven A. Rosenberg, M.D., Ph.D., chief of the Surgery Branch at NCI’s Center for Cancer Research, and was conducted at the NIH Clinical Center. NCI is part of the National Institutes of Health.

More than 30 percent of all human cancers are driven by mutations in a family of genes known collectively as RAS, which has three members: KRAS, NRAS, and HRAS. Mutations in the KRAS gene are thought to drive 95 percent of all pancreatic cancers and 45 percent of all colorectal cancers. A mutation called G12D is the most common KRAS mutation and is estimated to occur in more than 50,000 new cases of cancer in the United States each year. Because of their importance in cancer causation, worldwide efforts to successfully target mutant RAS genes are being pursued. Such efforts have met with limited success to date.

In attempting to develop more effective approaches to targeting RAS, Rosenberg’s team isolated tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) that targeted the KRAS G12D mutation from tumor nodules in the patient’s lungs that developed after colorectal cancer cells had spread to the lungs. TILs are white blood cells that migrate from the bloodstream into a tumor.

The isolated TILs were grown in the laboratory to large numbers and then infused into the patient intravenously. Following the TIL infusion, all seven metastatic lung nodules in the patient regressed, and the regression persisted for nine months.

After nine months, one of the lesions progressed and was surgically removed. This lesion was found to have lost a segment of chromosome 6 that includes a gene known as HLA-C*0802. This gene is involved in antigen presentation, a process through which an antigen produced by a cell is displayed on the cell’s outer surface and is thereby “presented” to the immune system. If the immune system recognizes the antigen as abnormal or foreign, an immune response against it will be mounted. In this case, because of the loss of the segment of chromosome 6, the immune system was unable to recognize the cancer cells as being abnormal, and they were able to escape immune attack and continue to thrive. Since the lesion was removed, however, the patient has been disease-free for over eight months.

“This study demonstrates for the first time that this method of administering TILs, called adoptive T cell transfer immunotherapy, can mediate effective antitumor immune responses against cancers that express the KRAS G12D mutation,” said Dr. Rosenberg. “We have also identified multiple T cell receptors that recognize this KRAS product, thus opening the possibility of T cell receptor gene therapy against multiple types of cancer that express this common mutation.”

The authors of the study note that this work is a proof-of-principle and that the next step is to see if the method proves effective in other patients.

About the National Cancer Institute (NCI): NCI leads the National Cancer Program and the NIH’s efforts to dramatically reduce the prevalence of cancer and improve the lives of cancer patients and their families, through research into prevention and cancer biology, the development of new interventions, and the training and mentoring of new researchers. For more information about cancer, please visit the NCI website at or call NCI’s Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit