CAR T-Cell Therapy Moves Closer to FDA Approval

Dr. Carl June speaks at WALS lecture.
Dr. Carl June speaks at WALS lecture.

Currently, there are few options for patients with relapsed and treatment-resistant blood cancers. A new approach to immunotherapy might give those patients another avenue, said Dr. Carl June at a recent NIH Director’s Lecture in Masur Auditorium.

The approach, called chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy, is expected to be approved next year by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of blood cancers such as leukemia and lymphomas, said June, a professor of immunotherapy at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

The CAR T cells nearing approval are genetically engineered to seek out and destroy leukemia cells. There are several types of leukemia, including chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).

To prepare CARs for therapy, white blood cells called T cells are taken from a patient. Then they are “genetically modified in the lab and returned to patients, usually after some sort of conditioning, like chemotherapy,” he said. “CARs are synthetic molecules. They don’t exist naturally.”

Read more
Former HHS Secretary Devotes Life to Diversity

Former HHS secretary Dr. Louis Sullivan
Former HHS secretary Dr. Louis Sullivan

Dr. Louis Wade Sullivan never forgot his roots. Throughout his distinguished career, the former HHS secretary, hematologist, professor and medical school president emeritus made great strides in health policy, medicine and education. Guided by his upbringing, Sullivan also made it his lifelong mission to bring inclusive diversity into our health system.

For Sullivan, life was an uphill battle, growing up a black man in the racially segregated rural south. Fortunately, he had a series of mentors and unexpected opportunities that set him on a path to success. Sullivan eloquently recounted his experiences—also told in his recently published memoir Breaking Ground: My Life in Medicine—at an NLM History of Medicine lecture Oct. 4 in Lipsett Amphitheater. In the casual town hall setting, the sizeable audience included quite a few fellow graduates of Sullivan’s alma mater, Morehouse College.

Sullivan’s story begins in Georgia in the 1930s. His father established the first black funeral home in rural Blakely. His mother commuted great distances to schools that would employ black teachers. Sullivan was fortunate to attend better schools in urban areas. His parents were his earliest role models, instilling in him a passion for education.

Read more