Immunotherapy for Leukemia

While chemotherapy kills leukemia cells directly, immunotherapies stimulate the immune system so your body can use its own natural defenses to fight the disease.

Adoptive cell therapies

Through clinical trials, Roswell Park offers adoptive cell therapies (ACT) for the treatment of leukemia. In these therapies, the patient’s own immune cells are removed from the body (in a process much like a blood donation), genetically modified in the laboratory to kill cancer cells, and then given back to the patient to fight the cancer cells.

We also offer the FDA-approved chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy Kymriah, an adoptive cell therapy for patients 25 and younger who have been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).

Patients receiving adoptive cell therapies are treated by their primary oncologists as well as clinicians in the Transplant & Cellular Therapy (TCT) Center.

Monoclonal antibodies

Immunotherapies called monoclonal antibodies are designed to knock out specific proteins or target other unique characteristics of each patient’s cancer cells. Like a magnet, they find and attach themselves to the target on the cancer cells and then deliver agents that will kill the cancer cells only, usually without affecting healthy cells. This is the idea behind personalized medicine.

Monoclonal antibodies may be joined to a chemotherapy drug to create an antibody-drug conjugate. The monoclonal antibody attaches itself to the cancer cell, delivering the chemotherapy drug directly to that cell to destroy it, while healthy cells are protected.

Donor lymphocyte infusion

Patients who undergo an allogeneic bone marrow transplant (using a donor) and whose disease later recurs (comes back) may be eligible for a type of immunotherapy called a donor lymphocyte infusion (DLI), which can help patients achieve remission again. In this procedure, you receive additional lymphocytes (white blood cells) from your original donor.

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