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South Carolina Researchers Explore New Immunotherapy Approach for Lymphoma Patients

Advance With MUSC Health
November 25, 2023

Researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) who are trialing a new approach to standard immunotherapy for lymphoma have opened the trial to 40 new patients. CD19 CAR T-cell therapy is a standard therapy that modifies a person’s own immune cells (T-cells) and strengthens them so they can attack cancer cells more effectively. The MUSC innovation developed at MUSC Hollings Cancer Center (HCC) is designed to produce a more purified, healthier T-cell and is one of a kind in the United States. This investigation is being led by Shikhar Mehrotra, Ph. D., Co-Leader of the Cancer Biology and Immunology Research Program, and Professor of the Department of Surgery at MUSC. T-cells have a limited life span, explains Mehrotra. “We are trying to make them more fit so that they’ll continue to kill the cancer cells longer,” he says. Investigators hope that new priming conditions will lead to a metabolically enhanced CAR T-cell product that will improve safety, reduce toxicity, and live longer.

As Associate Scientific Director at MUSC’s Center for Cellular Therapy (CCT), Dr. Mehrotra collaborates with a team of researchers dedicated to advancing cell- and gene-therapy-based biotherapeutic products for Phase I and II clinical studies.

This Phase I trial is enrolling approximately 40 new adult patients who have been diagnosed with B-cell Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia.

Certain issues have persisted with traditional CD19 CAR T-cell therapy. These include relapse, toxicity, and a dependence upon the availability of products from the commercial vendors. However, MUSC’s home-grown product will incorporate a CD34 tag (CD34t) into the CAR construct, thus allowing a more purified CAR T-cell product via CD34 selection. The investigators hope that it will lead to reduced toxicity and better long-term tumor control. For more information (including participation criteria), go to:

Enrolled patients will be managed by the clinical team of the MUSC Division of Hematology & Oncology. Patients’ cells will be collected by traditional apheresis, in which blood is removed and filtered through a machine that collects peripheral blood mononuclear cells. The T-cells obtained are modified at the Center for Cellular Therapy. Researchers will add the gene for a chimeric receptor that in this case will identify and kill the malignant B cells. These high-quality modified cells are then given back to the patient through an infusion by Dr. Brian Hess, Associate Professor in Hematology/Oncology, and his clinical team at HCC.

To refer a patient for this study, contact the MUSC Hollings Cancer Center, Charleston, SC:
Alan Brisendine, CCRP, at 843-792-9007 or
or Jasmin Brooks at