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Cellular Therapies

Cellular Therapies for Cancer Treatment

Cellular therapy is a unique category of cancer treatment that has seen significant advancements in recent years. There are a few types of cellular therapy, including immunotherapy and stem cell transplantation.  

Cellular therapy is commonly used for disorders affecting the body's ability to produce healthy cells, such as blood, bone marrow, and lymphatic system cancers, including leukemia and lymphoma. While cellular therapy is mainly used for hematologic conditions, clinical trials are underway to determine the efficacy of cellular therapy on solid tumor cancers. 

How Do Cellular Therapies Treat Cancer?

Cellular therapy involves transferring specific cells into a patient's body to prevent or treat diseases like cancer and some non-cancerous hematologic (blood) conditions. Different types of cells are used depending on the treatment goals. 

  • For immunotherapy, T-cells, a white blood cell, are used as the primary source to kill cancer.  
  • For stem cell transplantation, blood-forming stem cells are replenished after the cancerous cells are destroyed with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.

The cells can be collected from the patient (autologous).  

Established and Emerging Cellular Therapies

CAR (Chimeric Antigen Receptor) T-Cell Therapy 

CAR T-cell therapy makes it possible for the patient’s body to identify and destroy cancer cells. This category of cancer treatment is called immunotherapy. Without it, cancer cells can:

  • Disguise themselves as healthy cells.
  • Produce signals to stop the immune system from attacking them.
  • Send a signal not strong enough for the immune system to take action.

CAR T-cell cancer treatment is the most advanced cellular therapy available today. 

The process of CAR T-cell therapy is to remove the T-cells from the patient, add special receptors to their surface in a lab to recognize cancer cells, and infuse them back into the patient's bloodstream so they can multiply and attack cancer cells. This form of therapy is currently used to treat different types of blood cancers such as multiple myeloma, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and many non-Hodgkin lymphomas that have relapsed or have not responded to other treatments. 

Learn More

Listen to our podcast episode about CAR T-cell therapy.

On this episode of Cancer Care Connections, Dr. Gary Simmons discusses CAR T-cell therapy. Dr. Simmons is a hematologist oncologist and part of the transplant and cellular therapy team for Virginia Oncology Associates. Learn how CAR T-cell therapy is a revolutionary treatment for fighting blood cancer, and how continued research of this cellular therapy could change the landscape of cancer treatment.



Autologous (Self) Stem Cell Transplantation

Autologous stem cell transplants involve removing a patient's own stem cells, giving chemotherapy to kill the bad cells, and then infusing back the good stem cells. Stem cells, immature blood cells, are taken from the patient and frozen. After chemotherapy or radiation therapy, these stem cells are thawed and infused back into the patient's body. These infused stem cells ultimately move to the marrow where they begin restoring the body's blood cells. The purpose of this type of transplant is to rely on chemotherapy to kill cancer and stem cells to restore the body's ability to make blood for the patient.

Stem cell transplants are used primarily to treat blood cancers such as multiple myeloma and lymphoma

Learn More

Clinical Research Trials for New Cellular Therapies

The oncologists at Virginia Oncology Associates strive to provide our patients with the latest advancements in cellular therapy treatments as they become available. Clinical trials are continuously conducted to explore and develop more opportunities to use the groundbreaking CAR T-cell therapy. Cancers currently in clinical trials to determine the effectiveness of CAR T-cell therapy as a treatment option include:

  • Breast cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • GI cancers, including stomach and rectal
  • Melanoma
  • Head and neck cancers
  • Cervical cancer
  • Sarcoma

Cellular Therapies Available at Virginia Oncology Associates

Virginia Oncology Associates provides the latest cancer treatments, including CAR T-cell therapy and stem cell transplantation in the outpatient clinic, along with new T-cell therapies and clinical trials. Our oncologists will develop a personalized treatment plan specific to your needs. We also offer second opinions on treatment plans based on your unique situation. The majority of cellular therapies are offered at the Brock Cancer Center with Dr. Gary Simmons and Dr. Scott Cross.

Virginia Oncology Associates is located in Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Hampton, Newport News, Williamsburg, Chesapeake, Suffolk (Harbour View and Obici), and Elizabeth City, NC