Vanderbilt wins approval to use breakthrough cancer therapy

Patient Donald Pender and Dr. Olalekan Oluwole. Photo of CAR-T Clinical Trial cancer patient Donald Pender and Dr. Olalekan Oluwole in exam room of Hematology Clinic, TVC Room 3903. Check in at the front desk of the clinic to determine which patient exam room Mr. Pender and Dr. Oluwole are in. Need photo of patient by himself and with the physician. (Photo: Vanderbilt)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A new form of cancer treatment approved by the FDA last week is being called a breakthrough for adults with aggressive non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

The Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center is one of the first in the U.S. approved to use this new immunotherapy, which is manufactured specifically for each individual patient.

It’s called Yescarta, and IT uses a patient’s own immune system T cells that are engineered to seek and destroy cancer cells.

This new treatment option appears to work for some patients who might have survived for only about six months.

Donald Pender, 68, a retired GM autoworker from Spring Hill, had been through chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant, but his cancer came back. So he decided to take part in Vanderbilt’s first clinical trial of Yescarta about two years ago.

“They knew this worked but didn’t know if it would work for me. I wanted to give it a try. I thought I don’t have anything else to lose, let’s go for it,” said Pender.

Pender’s cancer is in remission. Doctors report the majority of patients in the clinical trial have been in remission for two years.

Dr. Olalekan Oluwole, assistant professor of Medicine at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center says, “Because of the way this new immunotherapy works, this technology has actually moved the field further towards eradicating cancer.”

Patients and doctors who have questions about Yescarta should call 615-936-2702 for more information.

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