Roger Williams Cancer Center offers advanced blood cancer treatment after federal approval

AFTER EARNING federal approval, the Roger Williams Cancer Center now offers Kymriah, a chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy for certain types of blood cancers. / COURTESY ROGER WILLIAMS CANCER CENTER

PROVIDENCE – The Roger Williams Cancer Center has received approval to administer an advanced treatment for certain types of blood cancers.

After completing a federal review process, the center now offers a Novartis Pharmaceuticals therapy known as Kymriah.

The chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy is used to treat acute lymphoblastic leukemia and a type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in patients who meet certain eligibility requirements.

“This accomplishment reinforces our 15-year leadership position as a CAR-T cell facility in New England and is just the latest reminder that patients seeking world-class cancer care do not have to leave Rhode Island to find it,” said Dr. Joseph Espat, chairman of surgery and medical director of the cancer center.

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Kymriah is a T-cell cancer therapy that uses a patient’s own white blood cells to attack blood cancer.

Prior to the treatment, patients’ white blood cells are collected during an outpatient procedure at Roger Williams, frozen and sent to Novartis to make Kymriah by genetically reengineering the cells “to create CD 19-directed antibodies. When the engineered cells are returned, usually after four to six weeks, the patient receives chemotherapy. Then the cells are infused, allowing the patient’s own cells to target and destroy the blood cancer cells,” according to a news release from Roger Williams.

Dr. Todd Roberts, director of the Roger Williams Bone and Marrow Transplantation program, called the center’s approval to offer Kymriah “a singular achievement for our program.”

Elizabeth Graham is a PBN contributing writer.

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