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ChristianaCare starts using new cancer therapy

University of Delaware

ChristianaCare is using a new cancer treatment on its patients.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first approved CAR-T Cell therapy in 2017 for children with a certain type of leukemia and for patients who have no other options for treatment.

ChristianaCare used the procedure on its first two patients in the past few months, and doctors are preparing several more for the procedure in the coming months.

Dr. Nicholas Petrelli is Medical Director at ChristianaCare’s Helen F. Graham Cancer Center. He says the procedure extracts millions of T cells from the patient’s bloodstream, and then reprograms the cells in a lab and puts them back into the patient.

“Through gene-transfer technology supercharge those t-cells so that they attack any cell that expresses a specific antigen and destroys the tumor,” said Petrelli.  

Lynnette Williams-Briggs of Seaford was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma in 2018 and she says her body rejected chemotherapy. She became the first patient to receive CAR-T Cell therapy in Delaware late last year.

“It worked for me. It really did. I’m just—I’m amazed. I’m blessed. I really am. I really am, because I didn’t think I was going to make it to see my 60th birthday and I did,” said Williams-Briggs.

CAR-T cell therapy does not normally create the side effects associated with chemotherapy like nausea, vomiting and hair loss. It can, however, create an inflammatory condition that causes flu like symptoms, which William-Briggs says she mildly experienced.

Petrelli notes the groundbreaking new procedure is only available at select cancer centers across the country.

“We’re in a new era of immunotherapy. We’re in a new era of gene-transfer technology,” said Petrelli. “I think this is an exciting time in cancer care and patients in the state of Delaware don’t have to leave the state for this type of treatment. They can get it right here at the Graham Center.”  

Petrelli says CAR-T Cell therapy is being tested in clinical trials on other types of cancer but that process is still in early stages.

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