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University Hospitals lab expansion critical move for future of cancer care

Thanks to a $10 million donation from the Wesley family, UH is now the only center in the Midwest with the ability to utilize and create new cancer treatments.

CLEVELAND — Cleveland just took another step forward in innovative cancer care.

University Hospitals just opened the Wesley Center for Immunotherapy at its Seidman Cancer Center. Not only will the facility be able to attract top researchers and scientists; it will get cancer care to patients in hours instead of weeks. 

Research into immunotherapy — the process of allowing the patient's own immune system to identify and kill cancer cells — exploded in the last few years. To do it, the patient's CAR T cells are removed and re-engineered to look for the specific cancer cell the patient is fighting.

"Now we can treat patients with lymphoma and leukemia and multiple myeloma with CAR T cell therapies with unheard of success," Dr. Koen van Besien said. Van Besien serves as UH Seidman Cancer Center's hematology chief, director of the Wesley Center for Immunotherapy, and the Don C. Dangler Chair in Stem Cell Research.

The process can normally take up to three weeks before the patient gets their cells back. UH researchers came up with a way to do it in 24 hours. 

"Many of the patients in need of these treatments are rather ill and cannot wait two to three weeks," van Besien explained. "This is only the beginning of other advances we will learn from this experience, and we will, in the future, be able to offer better, more effective products."

In November, UH Seidman Cancer Center is launching a Phase 1 clinical trial of the rapid manufacture CAR T-cell product in conjunction with the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic. The trial will test the safety of what are called UF-KURE19 cells in adult patients with relapsed or refractory non-Hodgkin lymphoma. If the trial is successful, the research team hopes to expand testing of rapidly manufactured CAR-T products to patients with other types of cancer.


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