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VICC treats first patient in Tennessee with novel cellular immunotherapy

February 29, 2016 | Dagny Stuart

For the first time, Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC) investigators have used a cancer patient’s own re-engineered immune cells to treat a form of blood cancer by stimulating the immune system. The new CAR-T investigational therapy (known as KTE-C19) is being studied in a clinical trial for patients with aggressive non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL). The trial, called ZUMA-1, is open to certain patients whose disease has progressed despite previous therapies.

NHL is one of the most common forms of cancer, with nearly 72,000 patients diagnosed every year in the United States.

“KTE-C19 is an ingenious way of using the immune system to treat cancer,” said Olalekan Oluwole, M.D., MBBS, MPH, principal investigator for the VICC Phase 1/Phase 2 trial sponsored by Kite Pharma, Inc. “The approach enables the patient’s immune system to more effectively recognize lymphoma and attack it in a way that’s similar to how the body’s immune system fights dangerous bacteria and viruses.”

As part of the ZUMA-1 clinical trial, the patient’s own T-cells (a type of immune cell) are collected in an outpatient setting. The T-cells are sent to a special manufacturing facility where they are re-engineered to produce special receptors on their surface called chimeric antigen receptors (CARs). These CAR proteins enable the T-cells to recognize a specific protein on tumor cells. VICC is the first cancer center in Tennessee to treat a patient with Kite’s KTE-C19.

“KTE-C19 is in the registrational stage of development under the Breakthrough Therapy Designation granted by FDA, which recognizes its potential to bring a substantial improvement over existing therapy in aggressive NHL,” said David Chang, M.D., Ph.D., Kite’s executive vice president, Research and Development, and chief medical officer. “Kite is honored to be working with VICC and its investigators who have demonstrated a striking commitment to the advancement of therapies with the potential to transform the lives of patients with cancer.”

“The environment at Vanderbilt fosters a seamless integrated approach among experts in hematological malignancies and stem cell transplant to offer these state-of-the-art therapies to potentially benefit patients and make scientific advances,” said Madan Jagasia, MBBS, M.S., co-leader of the Translational Research and Interventional Oncology Research Program, director of the Outpatient Transplant Program, and section chief of Hematology and Stem Cell Transplant at VICC.

“We are very excited about the promise of immunotherapy for patients with a variety of blood disorders, and the opportunity to first offer this to patients with refractory aggressive B-cell lymphoma, a disease with limited effective treatment options, is very gratifying,” said Michael Savona, M.D., associate professor of Medicine and director of the Hematology Early Therapeutics Program at VICC.

To learn more about the ZUMA-1 (NCT02348216) trial and other clinical trials, visit For more information about KTE-C19, visit