Atlantic Health System enrolls first U.S. patient in Lupus treatment trial

Leading-edge research will determine value of CAR-T therapy in autoimmune disease

Atlantic Health System recently announced the groundbreaking treatment of the first patient in the nation in a study to examine the effectiveness of using Chimeric Antigen Receptor, or CAR-T, cells in the treatment of the autoimmune disease lupus.

Lupus is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s tissues and organs. Patients with lupus can experience a range of often debilitating symptoms, including muscle aching, joint pain and swelling, fatigue, fever and rashes. In severe cases, lupus can damage organs, including the brain, kidneys, heart and lungs. The study will explore the efficacy and safety of CAR-T cell therapy, already used in the treatment of cancer, in the treatment of lupus.

“CAR-T therapy continues to lead the field in research, representing a pivotal leap forward in our approach to treating patients, especially those facing complex medical challenges,” Dr. Mohamad Cherry, medical director, hematology/oncology, Atlantic Health System, and medical director, Atlantic Cellular Therapy Program, said. “This study is a partnership between our Cellular Therapy Program and other luminaries in our health care system. We hope to collaboratively unlock novel avenues of care that will redefine the landscape of possibilities for these patients and their families.”

Pairing with Cherry to lead Atlantic Health’s research in this space is Dr. Neil Kramer, co-founder of the Institute for Rheumatic and Autoimmune Diseases at Overlook Medical Center. Kramer, a rheumatologist at Atlantic Health is the principal investigator on the trial and an expert in the treatment of lupus.

Together, Cherry and Kramer are focusing on the crucial role of autoreactive B cells in lupus. The study explores the potential advantages of utilizing CD19-specific CAR-T cells to deplete CD19+ B cells. The process involves extracting the patient’s own T cells and using specialized machinery to engineer them to target their own B cells. The goal is to comprehensively eliminate the targeted cells, resulting in disease remission and potentially resetting the immune system back to a state of self-tolerance.

“The opportunity to provide lupus patients with access to this treatment, all while ensuring they receive the highest level of care, is a true testament to the collaboration between the cellular therapy and rheumatology programs,” Kramer said. “It’s not just a treatment; it’s a collaboration between innovative science and compassionate care, empowering us to pioneer new horizons in patient well-being.”