Immunotherapy

Cellular immunotherapy

What if the cells that cancer affects could be trained to fight back? This is the core of cellular immunotherapy at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA). T cells — your immune system’s anti-infection troops — are taken from your body and multiplied in a lab. Sometimes they are also re-engineered to help the cells better fight cancer. The boosted cells are then returned to your body. Now better able to spot cancer cells that were once hidden, these T cells have the power to attack cancer.

CAR T-cell therapy

CAR T-cell therapy is a game changer in the field of cellular immunotherapy. This innovative therapy engineers a patient’s own T cells to zero in on enemy cancer cells. The rebooted T cells can even help the immune system “remember” these cancer cells, which may offer long-lasting protection against cancer returning — even after the treatment is completed.

David G. Maloney, MD, PhD and Medical Director of Bezos Family Immunotherapy Clinic talks about CAR T-cell therapy at SCCA

FDA-approved CAR T-cell therapies

The FDA has approved four cellular immunotherapies for patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. These are: 

  • Tisagenlecleucel, known by the brand name Kymriah®, available for adult patients with relapsed or refractory large B-cell lymphoma;  
  • Axicabtagene ciloleucel (axi-cel), known by the brand name Yescarta®, available for adult patients with relapsed or refractory large B-cell lymphoma, as well as relapsed or refractory follicular lymphoma;
  • Brexucabtagene autoleucel, known by the brand name Tecartus™, was approved to treat patients with mantle cell lymphoma (MCL);
  • And most recently, lisocabtagene maraleucel, known by the brand name of Breyanzi®, was approved to treat adult patients with relapsed or refractory (R/R) large B-cell lymphoma.

Tisagenlecleucel, known by the brand name Kymriah®, is also available for young adult patients with relapsed or refractory acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

The FDA recently approved a new cellular immunotherapy, idecabtagene vicleucel, also known as Abecma®, to treat patients with multiple myeloma. 

SCCA is one of the first centers in the nation to offer all five, due to the extensive experience of our physicians and nurses in developing and delivering this complex, groundbreaking therapy.

Frequently asked questions

What are tisagenlecleucel, axicabtagene ciloleucel, brexucabtagene autoleucel, lisocabtagene maraleucel and idecabtagene vicleucel?

These CAR T-cell therapies are available only at authorized treatment centers such as SCCA. This type of immunotherapy uses engineered T cells to harness the power of a patient’s own immune system to treat certain types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), such as LBCL and MCL, and acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), as well as multiple myeloma.  

These CAR T-cell therapies are different from other cancer medicines because they are made from the patient’s own white blood cells, which have been modified to recognize and attack the patient’s cancer cells. 

Who is eligible for these therapies?

Axicabtagene ciloleucel (axi-cel), also known by the brand name Yescarta®, is an FDA-approved treatment for aggressive non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). It is used when at least two other kinds of treatment have failed.

This therapy is available at SCCA for:

  • Adult patients with confirmed diagnosis of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), primary mediastinal B-cell lymphoma (PMBCL), high-grade B-cell lymphoma, or DLBCL arising from follicular lymphoma that has either not responded to, or has relapsed after, second or greater lines of systemic therapy. Therapy must have included a CD20 antibody and an anthracycline. Therapy must have included a CD20 antibody and an anthracycline.
  • Adult patients with relapsed or refractory follicular lymphoma (FL) after two or more lines of systemic therapy. 
  • Patients must have adequate organ, cardiac and pulmonary function (must meet established criteria/measures).

Tisagenlecleucel, also known by the brand name Kymriah®, is an FDA-approved treatment for patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and aggressive non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).

This therapy is available at SCCA for:

  • Young adults (ages 18–25) whose B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is refractory or in second or later relapse.
  • Adult patients with relapsed or refractory large B-cell lymphoma, including diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) not otherwise specified, high grade B-cell lymphoma or DLBCL arising from follicular lymphoma that has either not responded to, or relapsed after, second or greater lines of systemic therapy.
  • Patients must have adequate organ, cardiac and pulmonary function (must meet established criteria/measures).

Brexucabtagene autoleucel, also known by the brand name Tecartus™, is an FDA-approved treatment for patients with relapsed or refractory mantle cell lymphoma (R/R MCL). 

This therapy is available at SCCA for:

  • Adult patients with relapsed or refractory mantle cell lymphoma.
  • Patients must have adequate organ, cardiac and pulmonary function (must meet established criteria/measures).

Lisocabtagene maraleucel, also known by the brand name Breyanzi®, is an FDA-approved treatment for patients with relapsed or refractory large B-cell lymphoma (R/R LBCL).  

This therapy is available at SCCA for: 

  • Adult patients with relapsed or refractory (R/R) large B-cell lymphoma after two or more lines of systemic therapy including diffuse large B-cell lymphoma not otherwise specified (including DLBCL arising from indolent lymphoma), high-grade B-cell lymphoma, primary mediastinal large B-cell lymphoma and follicular lymphoma grade 3B.  
  • Patients must have adequate organ, cardiac and pulmonary function (must meet established criteria/measures). 

Idecabtagene vicleucel, also known by the brand name Abecma®, is an FDA-approved treatment for patients with multiple myeloma.   

This therapy is available at SCCA for: 

  • Adult patients with multiple myeloma who have received four or more prior lines of therapy, including an immunomodulatory agent, a proteasome inhibitor, and an anti-CD38 monoclonal antibody.  
  • Patients must have adequate organ, cardiac and pulmonary function (must meet established criteria/measures). 

How are these therapies delivered?

  • Because CAR T-cell therapy is made from the patient’s own white blood cells, blood will be collected by a process called “leukapheresis” (LOO-kuh-feh-REE-sis), which concentrates white blood cells.
  • The patient’s blood cells are then sent to a manufacturing center to make the treatment.
  • Before getting CAR T-cell therapy, the patient will usually have several days of chemotherapy to help the T cells grow.
  • When CAR T-cell therapy is ready, the patient’s care team will infuse the cells through a catheter placed into a vein (intravenous infusion). The infusion usually takes less than 30 minutes.
  • The patient is then monitored daily for at least seven days after the infusion.
  • Patients should plan to stay close to SCCA for at least four weeks after getting treated. Our care team will help with any side effects that may occur.
  • If patients have side effects, they may be hospitalized until their condition is stable  and it is safe to leave the hospital.
  • Patients should not drive for eight weeks following T-cell therapy.

What if CAR T-cell therapy is not appropriate for me?

These therapies are available for a certain population of cancer patients. However, patients at SCCA also have access to many different therapies, including other CAR T-cell therapies in clinical trials. Talk with our care team to learn more.

Is CAR T-cell therapy used to treat other types of cancer?

Right now, the FDA has approved CAR T-cell therapy for adult patients with certain types of lymphoma and for children and young adults with acute lymphoblastic leukemia that hasn’t responded to other forms of treatment. Clinical trials of different CAR T-cell therapies for a variety of cancers are underway at SCCA, as we are pioneers in this new form of cancer treatment.

Does insurance cover CAR T-cell therapy?

Health insurers are preparing their coverage policies for these new FDA-approved treatments. In the meantime, coverage will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, which is typical when new therapies are first approved. At SCCA, we will do everything we can to seek health insurance coverage for clinically eligible patients.

Bezos Family Immunotherapy Clinic

SCCA is a global CAR T-cell therapy leader, home to groundbreaking science and advanced immunotherapy. Over 200 patients have been part of our CAR T-cell clinical trials — one of the largest groups for a single institution. As both a research and cancer care center, we provide the therapies of tomorrow, today.

This expertise is the foundation for our Bezos Family Immunotherapy Clinic. Opened in December 2016, it is the first of its kind: a center dedicated to cellular immunotherapy, where SCCA can offer more clinical trials and the newest therapies. Our specialized patient care coordinators at the Bezos Family Immunotherapy Clinic at SCCA can provide more information.

In addition to the Bezos Family Immunotherapy Clinic, cellular immunotherapy patients can also be seen in the Blood and Marrow Transplant Program by immunotherapy experts.

Bezos Family Immunotherapy Clinic
Specialized patient care coordinator
Learn more about the Bezos Family Immunotherapy Clinic

Long-term follow-up

If you received immunotherapy treatment from SCCA and have questions related to your treatment that your local doctor can’t answer, our Long-Term Follow-Up (LTFU) program is here to help. Our doctors will work with you and your local team to care for you. We will also gather information from you to help us prevent and treat any long-term effects of immunotherapy.

Contact us

Long-Term Follow-Up Program
email imtxltfu@fredhutch.org
Monday to Friday, 8 am–4 pm (Pacific Time)

Messages are assigned priority according to the urgency and the order in which they are received. In general, most messages receive a response within three business days. Please be aware that the response time depends on the volume and nature of the messages received. 

Fred Hutch resources

Learn more about our Long-Term Follow-Up Program from Fred Hutch including including physician guidelines and published papers. 

Fred Hutch Long-Term Follow-Up Website