NHCI Immunotherapy Program

Northside Hospital Cancer Institute (NHCI) has been providing cancer immunotherapy for decades in the form of allogeneic stem cell transplantation, in which a donor’s bone marrow or blood is transplanted into a patient to cure aggressive blood cancers. Such transplants represented the first definitive proof of the human immune system’s capacity to cure cancer. Now, researchers are developing new ways to strengthen and empower a patient’s own immune system to fight some of the most complex cancers.

Northside Hospital Cancer Institute’s Immunotherapy Program is part of our nationally recognized treatment center for blood and marrow transplants.

What Is Immunotherapy?

A person’s immune system is incredibly efficient and well designed to protect us against infections. However, with cancer, the immune system has trouble eliminating these cancer cells because of the way cancer cells are able to hide and trick the immune system in order to survive.

Immunotherapy, also known as biological therapy, is a type of cancer treatment that refers to ways we stimulate the immune system to identify and better fight cancer. It uses substances made by the body or in a lab to help the immune system work harder, or in a more targeted way, to fight cancer.

Immunotherapy works by:

  • Stopping or slowing the growth of cancer cells
  • Preventing cancer from spreading to other parts of the body
  • Boosting the immune system's ability to get rid of cancer cells

Types of Cancer Immunotherapies

Several different types of cancer immunotherapy are being utilized both commercially and in research studies. There are active research protocols ongoing at Northside Hospital involving the use of immunotherapy to treat certain cancers.

Expand the content below for more information about the types of cancer immunotherapies.

An immune checkpoint inhibitor is a drug – often made of antibodies – that unleashes an immune system attack on cancer cells. Many of these drugs are commercially available for the treatment of various types of cancer such as kidney cancer, bladder cancer and endometrial cancer.

Cytokines are man-made versions of the natural proteins interferon and interleukin found in the body that activate the immune system to help it attack cancer cells. Some cancer patients may benefit from cytokine treatment including those diagnosed with kidney cancer and melanoma.

Bispecific monoclonal antibodies are biologic agents (proteins) given by IV that attach to both immune cells and cancer cells and bring them together in proximity to strengthen the immune system’s ability to fight cancer.

Cell–based immunotherapies, including CAR T-cell therapy, refer to a treatment option where immune cells are taken directly from a patient and genetically modified to be more effective tumor-fighting immune cells. The cells are then replicated in laboratories and prepared for reinfusion back into the patient.

For more information, or to refer a patient for CAR T-Cell Therapy, please call 404-255-1930.

How Is Immunotherapy Different from Conventional Cancer Treatment?

Conventional chemotherapy drugs kill cancer cells by working on the “machinery” inside of cells and causing the cells to die. Unfortunately, normal healthy cells often have similar machinery, so there can be many side effects to treatment (hair loss, nausea, etc.).

With immunotherapy, instead of directly targeting cancer cells themselves, we indirectly boost one’s immune system to fight the cancer.

CAR T-Cell Therapy

Northside Hospital Cancer Institute is among select centers in the country offering chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy, one of the most promising cell-based cancer immunotherapies available. This new therapy just received approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in October 2017.

NHCI is an authorized treatment center for providing the following types of CAR T-cell therapies:

  • Yescarta ® CAR T-cell treatment center for treating patients with certain types of for patients with certain types Nonof non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) who have relapsed or refractory disease after receiving two or more types of treatment.
  • Kymriah® for patients:
    • Who are up to 25 years old with second or later relapsed or refractory B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).
    • Adult patients with relapsed or refractory large B-cell lymphoma after two or more lines of systemic therapy including diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) not otherwise specified, high-grade B-cell lymphoma and DLBCL arising from follicular lymphoma.

This highly specialized treatment involves:

  • Removing immune system T-cells from the patient’s blood stream.
  • Shipping T-cell product to a manufacturing laboratory.
  • Genetically engineering (reprogramming) T-cells to produce special receptors on their surface called chimeric antigen receptors, or CARs, enabling the T-cells to better recognize and kill cancer cells.
  • Expanding T-cells to make billions of new enhanced T-cells.
  • Infusing CAR T-cell product back into the patient to target and kill malignant cancer cells.
CAR T Infographic

Prior to CAR T-cell infusion, the patient receives disease-specific chemotherapy, which creates space within the immune system to allow the infused reprogrammed CAR T-cells to grow and multiply.

CAR T-cell infusion occurs on the Northside Hospital Blood and Marrow Transplant, Leukemia and Immunotherapy Inpatient Unit. The process is similar to receiving a blood product infusion.

For more information, or to refer a patient for CAR T-Cell Therapy, please call 404-255-1930.

Why Choose Northside Hospital Cancer Institute for CAR T-Cell Therapy?

Our Immunotherapy Program physicians are experts in administering CAR T-cell therapy and other immunotherapy cancer treatments, and Northside is one of only a handful of facilities in the Southeast (two in Georgia) with the capacity and facilities to appropriately manage the toxicity of immunotherapy agents.

Northside Hospital has participated in novel CAR T-cell therapy clinical trials and has the experience to care for patients who may develop mild-to-severe immunological side effects. Northside’s state-of-the-art diagnostic testing, advanced facilities, comprehensive patient-centered care, and highly trained cancer physician experts are all essential components of the exceptional care our patients receive, resulting in outstanding survival outcomes and patient satisfaction.

For more information or to refer a patient for CAR T-Cell Therapy, please call 404-255-1930.

Learn more about CAR T-cell therapy

Learn more about other Northside Hospital Cancer Institute Cancer Treatments and Therapies.


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