FDA Approves "Historic" Cancer Treatment Created by Virtua Partners, Penn Medicine and CHOP

Through the Penn Medicine partnership, Virtua’s oncology patients could benefit from an exciting, new development in Immunotherapy. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a personalized cellular therapy treatment for leukemia developed by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

The first-of-its-kind therapy treats cancer by altering a patient's own cells to fight cancer. The new treatment modifies patients’ own immune T cells, turning them in to “hunter” cells that multiply and attack the disease. It is designed for patients up to 25 years old, who suffer from B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia in refractory or in relapse.

For more information about this new development, please read the FAQ below as well as the following news release, "Pioneering CAR T-cell Studies Led to First-ever Cancer Cell and Gene Therapy Approval."

If you have questions or think you might be a candidate, please discuss with your physician.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Personalized CAR Cell Therapy?
Over the past several years, cancer researchers have discovered the impact that the immune system can have on treating and preventing cancer. In particular, researchers at Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center have identified the effect of T cells, which are responsible for the identification and destruction of abnormal substances, like cancer.

This discovery has led to the implementation of a highly personalized approach known as chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy, as a treatment option for some cancer patients. This type of immunotherapy treatment removes these vital T cells from the patient, genetically modifies them in the laboratory so they can recognize the patient’s cancer cells, and then are infused directly back into the patient through an IV. Inside the body, these cells can grow, amplifying a potential response.

This treatment allows for the body’s immune system to be super charged with large quantities of CAR T cells which will seek out and attack cancer cells.

Who can benefit from this new treatment?
Penn’s personalized cellular therapy is approved in the United States for the treatment of patients up to 25 years of age with B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) that is refractory or in second or later relapse.

Similar therapy to treat non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is also being tested in clinical trials and a request for FDA approval is underway.

What should I do if I think I am, or a loved one is a candidate for treatment?
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with ALL, speak with the treating oncologist about all options for treatment. You can also speak with a dedicated Penn Medicine staff member who can help connect you to an oncologist about receiving CAR-T therapy by calling 215-316-5127 or visiting the Abramson Cancer Center’s Immunotherapy website.

How can I learn more about CAR-T and make an appointment?
To learn more about personalized cellular therapy and CAR-T, visit the Abramson Cancer Center’s Immunotherapy website.

If you are interested in making an appointment to discuss if CAR-T therapy is right for you, please call 215-316-5127 for additional information. 

Will this work for my type of cancer?
There are a number of ongoing clinical trials at the Abramson Cancer Center which are studying the use of CAR-T therapy in B-cell and other cancers.

For additional information on current clinical trials available at the Abramson Cancer Center please click here

How much will this cost? Will my insurance cover it?
This treatment has been approved by the FDA and may be covered or reimbursed by your insurance. It is necessary to speak with your insurance provider prior to receiving treatment to understand your coverage. Our clinical care team is here to support you as you discuss the cost and coverage with your insurance provider.

What are questions I should ask my or my child’s oncologist?

  • How is the treatment given and what is the procedure like?
  • Is a hospital stay required before, during or after treatment?
  • How many treatments are needed and how long will they take to be given?
  • What are the risks and side effects of treatment?
  • Is there a cost for treatment or is this covered by insurance?
  • What are the alternatives?
  • What are the chances of remission or cure?