An assistant professor at the University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center has introduced a therapy to the islands that helps modify T cells, a type of immune cell, to make them more capable of fighting cancer.
Stephanie Si Lim, who is also a pediatric hematologist oncologist at Kapiʻolani Medical Center for Women and Children, recently brought chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy, or CAR T-cell therapy, to Hawaiʻi in an effort to development life-saving treatments for cancers that are difficult to treat.
CAR T-cell therapy is now available to children and young adults with non-Hodgkin lymphoma and B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and will soon be available to adult patients.
“We are so excited to be able to offer CAR T-cell therapy to our patients here in Hawaiʻi,” Si Lim said in a press release. “This is a momentous step for our medical community as we continue to strive to offer the best and most cutting-edge therapies to patients in need.”
She is leading an initiative at the Kapiʻolani medical center to build a broader cellular immunotherapy program. A key goal of the program is to introduce CAR T-cell therapy to the state’s medical community in the form of clinical trials and U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved products.
The first CAR T-cell clinical trial opened May 14 at Kapiʻolani Medical Center for Women and Children. Moving forward, all patients living in Hawaiʻi, including on neighbor islands, who qualify for this clinical trial will be able to receive treatment on Oʻahu without having to travel to the mainland.
Currently, CAR T-cell therapy is proven to be particularly effective against B-cell malignancies and multiple myeloma — both common forms of cancer in adults and pediatric populations in Hawaiʻi. During the next few years, it is expected that new FDA-approved CAR T-cell treatments will also be available for other cancers in the state, including breast and prostate.