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Work begins on MetroHealth's groundbreaking 'Car-T cell' cancer treatment labs

The Car-T cell labs are a first-of-their-kind in Northeast Ohio.

CLEVELAND — Editor's note: The above video is from an unrelated AP story on Car-T cells.

MetroHealth’s new cutting-edge cancer treatment center is coming to Northeast Ohio. Work began this week to renovate labs in MetroHealth’s Rammelkamp Research Center to convert the space into Car T-cell labs.

MetroHealth will be the second public hospital to offer this kind of treatment in the United States, and the first in Northeast Ohio. The new labs are expected to open in September.

Car T-cell treatment has typically only been available to patients with robust insurance plans, but MetroHealth will be able to offer this option to a much larger group of patients than would otherwise be available.

How does Car T-cell cancer treatment work? MetroHealth outlined how the treatment process differs from chemotherapy and radiation.

Here's a breakdown on the process from MetroHealth:

The new lab will produce cellular- and vector-based therapies for the treatment of cancer. Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy is different from chemotherapy or radiation. It is a way to get a type of white blood cell called T-cells to fight cancer by changing them in a lab so they can find and destroy cancer cells.

According to the American Cancer Society, the immune system recognizes foreign substances in the body by finding proteins called antigens. T-cells have their own proteins called receptors that attach to foreign antigens and help trigger other parts of the immune system to destroy the foreign substance.

Each foreign antigen has a unique immune receptor that is able to bind to it. Cancer cells also have antigens, but if your immune cells don't have the right receptors, they can't attach to the antigens and help destroy the cancer cells.

In this form of treatment, blood is drawn from a patient. T-cells are extracted and then changed by adding a gene, which helps the T-cells attach to a specific cancer cell antigen and fight the cancer. Those cells are grown and multiplied in the lab over several weeks and then put back into the patient.

This relatively new treatment is viewed as having less side effects than chemotherapy or radiation treatments.  

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Editor's note: Video in the player above was originally published in an unrelated story on April 18, 2022.

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