Using your own immune cells as medicine

Cellular immunotherapies help to strengthen the natural disease-fighting power of your body’s immune cells called T lymphocytes or T cells. These T cells are special white blood cells that have the potential to destroy cancer cells.

Years ago, physicians and scientists realized that T cells are an amazing component of the immune system, and that they can be harnessed to activate the whole immune system against cancer. “These cells can proliferate, persist, be targeted toward cancer, can have memory, and can last for years in a patient. Plus, they secrete small proteins that recruit other immune cells to the fight, too,” says Marco Davila, MD, PhD, Vice Chair for Cellular Therapies.

How cellular therapies work

With cellular immunotherapies, also called adoptive cell transfer, your T cells are removed from your blood in a process very much like a blood donation. The cells are then grown and multiplied in a laboratory so that there are millions of them. They may also be “re-engineered,” or activated, to make it easier for them to track down and destroy your cancer cells. Then, these super-charged T cells are returned to your body through an intravenous (IV) infusion so they can get to work fighting your cancer.

Today, cellular therapies that employ T cells are revolutionizing cancer treatment for many cancer types and providing new therapies to patients with advanced cancers. Two of these approaches include chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy and tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte (TIL) therapy.

Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy

Engineering your T cells to produce a specific protein called chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) helps the T cells find and latch onto your cancer cells. These therapies offer a powerful option for patients with advanced leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and other cancers, and new hope for lasting remissions with fewer side effects.

About CAR T-cell therapy

Tumor-Infiltrating Lymphocyte (TIL) therapy

This new class of immunotherapy that uses T cells found within your tumor is becoming a promising and effective strategy against solid tumor cancers such as melanoma, cholangiocarcinoma, cervical, colorectal, breast, lung, genitourinary and more.

About TIL therapy

Roswell Park — a Center of Excellence

Roswell Park’s Transplant & Cellular Therapy Center is a Center of Excellence, dedicated to providing these next-generation treatments delivered by nationally recognized experts, who were central to the development of these therapies and technologies.

We offer several types of cellular therapies, including FDA-approved treatments and promising novel options through clinical trials, to eligible patients with:

  • Lymphoma
  • Leukemia
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Melanoma
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Neuroblastoma and synovial cell sarcoma
  • Gastrointestinal cancers

Cellular therapies are made for each individual patient, using their own cells, a process that requires sophisticated cell engineering and production facilities dedicated to this purpose. Roswell Park’s Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) Facility currently has six of these so-called clean rooms for cell manufacturing and is currently building another 14 — dramatically expanding our ability to develop, test and provide these game-changing treatments to patients who need them.

Become a patient