Rutgers Cancer Center treats 1st patient with its own manufactured T-cells

Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, together with RWJBarnabas Health, announced it treated its first patient using genetically modified T-cells that were manufactured in its own state-of-the-art Good Manufacturing Practices facility, a fully commissioned clean space for manufacturing of viral vectors and cell products for human administration.

Cell therapy is an area of oncology research that harnesses the immune system to target cancer. This includes harvesting T-cells from a patient and genetically engineering those cells to produce receptors that allow the T-cells to specifically target antigens on the surface of the cancer cells of the patient in order to kill those cancer cells. The cells are genetically engineered and reproduced in the laboratory, then infused back into the patient, where they multiply, target the cancer cells they have been programmed to target, and kill them.

Dr. Christian Hinrichs, chief of cancer immunotherapy and co-director of the Duncan and Nancy MacMillan Cancer Immunology and Metabolism Center of Excellence at Rutgers Cancer Institute, is leading the study targeting common solid tumors with a novel receptor technology developed in his laboratory.

“Through our specialized GMP facility and research capabilities, we have the potential to transform the lives of patients with cancer,” Hinrichs, who is also a professor of medicine at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, said. “Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey is uniquely positioned to lead innovation and advance the discovery and development of cell therapies that can bring real hope to patients.”

Hinrichs has pioneered the use of immune cells generated from a patient’s tumor for the treatment of head and neck cancers, cervical cancer and anal cancer. He has also discovered new technologies to make T-cells target common types of cancer such as stomach, lung and breast cancer.

“As a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, we have the scientific community, partners and facilities to pioneer new strategies not available elsewhere,” Rutgers Cancer Institute Director Dr Steven Libutti, who is also the senior vice president of oncology services at RWJBarnabas Health, said. “The GMP facility is the link that connects the discovery of new treatments in the laboratories at Rutgers Cancer Institute with the delivery of these treatments directly to patients — statewide with RWJBarnabas Health and beyond.”

Housed within Rutgers Cancer Institute, the GMP facility enables all steps of the CAR T-cell therapy process and other investigative therapies and procedures and supports the clinical trials to test these novel therapies. Patients in New Jersey have access to these clinical trials through treatment at Rutgers Cancer Institute and through clinical trial recruitment and coordination of care across RWJBarnabas Health. Through a screening protocol for cell therapy clinical trial eligibility, which is open across the health system and a broad network of providers, patients are assisted with trial entry and with coordination of their medical care.