CAR T-Cell Therapy at UAMS Expands as First Myeloma Patient Sees Dramatic Results
The fruits of being the first and only hospital in Arkansas approved more than three years ago to provide a revolutionary new therapy for lymphoma and acute leukemia are being realized at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
The state’s only combined academic, clinical and research leader has expanded the revolutionary treatment — chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy — to patients with relapsing myeloma. The promising patient responses signal that the wave of exciting breakthrough treatments for cancer patients is only beginning.
CAR T-cell therapy, offered through UAMS’ Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, is a life-saving treatment option for patients with specific types of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma who have failed at least two other treatments. In the treatment, the patients’ own T cells, a type of white blood cell integral to the immune system, are collected and shipped to a laboratory in New Jersey and genetically altered. Returned to the patient through infusion, the modified cells expand, multiply and seek out specific cancerous cells and kill them.
Since UAMS began offering the FDA-approved therapy in December 2019, the Cancer Institute has treated 43 patients with myeloma, large B-cell lymphoma, follicular lymphoma and B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
For lymphoma patients, CAR T may be their only option. “Average survival from lymphoma that is resistant to conventional chemotherapy is very short,” said Muthu Veeraputhiran, M.D., UAMS hematologist/oncologist and director of the Cancer Institute’s Stem Cell and Cellular Therapy Transplant Team. “Less than 10% of patients live six months.”
“It’s early but the data shows that CAR T cures around 50-80% of the lymphomas,” he said.
Dave Puente of Oak Grove, California, the first myeloma patient to receive CAR T-cell therapy at UAMS, is thriving since receiving CAR T in November 2021. Puente, who battled myeloma for 14-plus years, went into full remission just in time to realize a dream – walking his daughter down the aisle at her wedding.
Within two weeks of his CAR T-cell therapy transplant, “his blood work showed that the myeloma is no longer detectable,” said Frits van Rhee, M.D., Ph.D., clinical director of the Myeloma Center.
Van Rhee called Puente’s response to the treatment, for which UAMS gained approval for myeloma patients only three months earlier, “remarkable.”
“This is the dawn of a new day in treatment,” he said.
Puente, 62, an electrical engineer, was diagnosed with myeloma in June 2008. In 2011, after several trips across the country to be treated by van Rhee, he was in remission for six years. But then his myeloma, which mutates to survive, returned.
He remained hospitalized for two weeks after his treatment, and he and his wife returned to their home in California in early December. No follow-up treatments are required with CAR T-cell immunotherapy treatments.