Loyola to Become First Chicago Center to Produce Cancer-Fighting CAR-T Cells

Jim Ritter
Loyola Medicine
(708) 216-2445 (office)
(708) 441-7728 (cell)

Carl Alston
Leukemia Research Foundation
(847) 919-6250 (office)
(630) 202-8294 (cell)


Leukemia Research Foundation Supporting Research with $250,000 Gift

MAYWOOD, IL – Loyola University Chicago and Loyola Medicine have announced plans to become the first Chicago center to produce cancer-fighting CAR-T cells to treat leukemia and lymphoma.

Click here to see a video and extended coverage in the Chicago Tribune.

CAR-T cell therapy has been shown to be remarkably effective in treating cancer patients who have failed standard treatments, but it is expensive and can cause severe side effects. Loyola is planning on producing a more purified CAR-T cell product that potentially could reduce toxicities and costs.

The Leukemia Research Foundation is supporting the research with a lead gift of $250,000 to Loyola University Chicago. The media are invited to cover the gift presentation Wednesday, Sept. 26 at 6 pm in the John and Herta Cuneo Center, Alumni Room, 1st Floor, 2160 S. First Ave., Maywood.

Loyola plans to enroll patients in a clinical trial of its CAR-T cells by the end of 2018.

CAR-T therapy harnesses the patient's immune system to fight cancer. In the Loyola clinical trial, T-cells will be collected from the patient and sent to Loyola's clean lab. There, the cells will be genetically modified to target and kill cancer cells. Millions of these engineered T-cells then will be infused back into the patient. (T-cells play an essential role in the immune system. They flow through the bloodstream to fight viruses, bacteria and other foreign invaders. CAR-T is short for chimeric antigen receptor T-cell.)

Loyola is among the Chicago centers that have treated patients with CAR-T cells developed by pharmaceutical companies. Now Loyola will be the first Chicago center to produce its own CAR-T cells. The cells will be made available to other centers in Chicago and beyond once initial testing is completed.

"We're working to develop a more pure CAR-T product that would lessen toxic side effects and potentially increase the number of eligible patients," said Patrick Stiff, MD, Loyola's director of hematology/oncology research and division director of hematology/oncology. Dr. Stiff is directing Loyola's CAR-T research, along with Michael Nishimura, PhD, program director of immunologic therapies.

Kevin Radelet, executive director of the Leukemia Research Foundation, said supporting CAR-T research "directly aligns with our mission of funding medical research and enriching the quality of life of those touched by these diseases."

The Leukemia Research Foundation, based in Northfield, Illinois, has awarded $30 million in research grants to more than 500 researchers and more than 200 research institutions in 13 countries. The Foundation also is providing $1.67 million in "New Investigator" grants to 12 young researchers during the 2018-2019 fiscal year.

Loyola University Medical Center participated in a groundbreaking clinical trial of CAR-T therapy published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The multi-center study included patients with certain types of large B cell lymphoma who had failed standard treatments. Forty-two percent were in complete remission after 15 months – a remarkable result since most patients had exhausted all other treatment options.

The study found that 95 percent of the patients experienced at least one severe side effect. By producing a less toxic product, it may be possible to move the expensive inpatient therapy to an outpatient setting.  This could allow many more patients to be treated, including Medicare patients who comprise approximately 50 percent of the lymphoma population. 

The CAR-T cells will be produced in the McCormick Tribune Foundation Center for Cellular Therapy in Loyola's Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center. The center provides a super-clean environment to produce pure cell populations free of contamination from fungi, microbes, etc.

Loyola's cellular center complies with strict standards set by the Food and Drug Administration and National Institutes of Health. Loyola has used the cellular center to produce cancer-fighting immune cells for clinical trials in melanoma and ovarian cancer patients, and other trials are planned. Also, Dr. Nishimura is producing immune cells for an NIH clinical trial on an experimental treatment for kidney cancer.

Loyola initially will test its CAR-T cells on patients with acute lymphocytic leukemia and B-cell non-Hodgkin's' lymphoma who have failed standard treatments. A Phase 1 trial will determine the effectiveness and toxicity of the CAR-T cells. Then, a Phase 2 trial will determine the effectiveness of the CAR-T cells in a larger patient sample, consisting of patients from throughout the Chicago area.

Loyola will offer CAR-T cells to other medical centers in this region, across the country and even globally to advance the science more quickly.

The Leukemia Research Foundation's support of Loyola's CAR-T research arose out of a casual conversation Dr. Stiff had with foundation officials about Loyola's CAR-T research. "We realized there were synergies between our goals and the foundation's goals," Dr. Stiff said.

Mr. Radelet added, "We are thrilled to be able to support this groundbreaking research in Chicago, where the Leukemia Research Foundation has a large footprint."

To learn more about Loyola Medicine or find a physician, visit loyolamedicine.org.


About Loyola Medicine
Loyola Medicine is a quaternary care system based in the western suburbs of Chicago that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC) in Maywood, Gottlieb Memorial Hospital (GMH) in Melrose Park, MacNeal Hospital in Berwyn and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services from 1,772 physicians throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital that includes the William G. and Mary A. Ryan Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, Illinois's largest burn center, a certified comprehensive stroke center and a children’s hospital. The medical center campus is also home to Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. GMH is a 247-licensed-bed community hospital with 150 physician offices, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park. MacNeal Hospital is a 374-bed teaching hospital with advanced inpatient and outpatient medical, surgical and psychiatric services, advanced diagnostics and treatments in a convenient community setting at eight locations. Loyola Medicine is a member of Trinity Health, one of the nation’s largest health systems with 94 hospitals in 22 states.

About Trinity Health
Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic healthcare delivery systems in the nation, serving diverse communities that include more than 30 million people across 22 states. Trinity Health includes 94 hospitals, as well as 122 continuing care programs that include PACE, senior living facilities, and home care and hospice services. Its continuing care programs provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually. Based in Livonia, Mich., and with annual operating revenues of $17.6 billion and assets of $23.4 billion, the organization returns $1.1 billion to its communities annually in the form of charity care and other community benefit programs. Trinity Health employs about 131,000 colleagues, including 7,500 employed physicians and clinicians. Committed to those who are poor and underserved in its communities, Trinity Health is known for its focus on the country's aging population. As a single, unified ministry, the organization is the innovator of Senior Emergency Departments, the largest not-for-profit provider of home health care services — ranked by number of visits — in the nation, as well as the nation’s leading provider of PACE (Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly) based on the number of available programs. For more information, visit www.trinity-health.org. You can also follow @TrinityHealthMI on Twitter.

About Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine
Founded in 1909, Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine provides education to medical professionals and biomedical scientists at the Doctor of Medicine, Doctor of Philosophy, and graduate levels. Stritch’s curriculum provides modern clinical and research education coupled with global and community health and service opportunities. The school’s mission is to advance the University’s commitment to a socially-just world by developing health care leaders and improving human health through education and research grounded in Jesuit, Catholic values. The school is located on Loyola’s Health Sciences Campus in Maywood, Illinois, and is adjacent to its clinical partners at the Loyola University Health System, who help bring education and research to the point of care. For more information, visit LUC.edu/stritch, “like” us at Facebook.com/StritchMedicine, or follow us on Twitter via @LoyolaHSD.

About Loyola University Chicago
Founded in 1870, Loyola University Chicago is one of the nation’s largest Jesuit, Catholic universities, with nearly 16,500 students. More than 11,000 undergraduates call Loyola home. The University has four campuses: three in the greater Chicago area and one in Rome, Italy, as well as course locations in Beijing, China; Saigon-Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Vernon Hills, Illinois (Cuneo Mansion and Gardens); and a Retreat and Ecology Campus in Woodstock, Illinois. The University features 13 schools, colleges, and institutes, including the Quinlan School of Business, Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing, Stritch School of Medicine, College of Arts and Sciences, School of Communication, School of Continuing and Professional Studies, School of Education, School of Law, School of Social Work, Graduate School, Institute of Pastoral Studies, Institute of Environmental Sustainability, and Arrupe College of Loyola University Chicago. Ranked a top 100 national university by U.S. News & World Report, Loyola is also among a select group of universities recognized for community service and engagement by prestigious national organizations like the Carnegie Foundation and the Corporation for National and Community Service. To learn more about Loyola, visit LUC.edu, “like” us at Facebook.com/LoyolaChicago, or follow us on Twitter via @LoyolaChicago or @LoyolaNewsroom.

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