Fred Hutch has opened a new cancer clinic that focuses on immunotherapy, which uses a patient’s own cells to fight the disease. The center is named for Seattle’s Bezos family, who are longtime supporters.
Officials at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center announced Tuesday they’re naming a new, state-of-the-art immunotherapy clinic to treat cancer patients after Seattle’s Bezos family, which has donated more than $30 million for research since 2009.
The Bezos Family Immunotherapy Clinic, on the sixth floor at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, will more than double the number of clinical trials to test the treatment that uses patients’ own immune systems to attack their disease.
At least a dozen clinical trials could be conducted in 2017, up from five trials in 2016, said Dr. David Maloney, Fred Hutch director of cellular immunotherapy and medical director of the new clinic. The more than 9,000-square-foot clinic includes 15 patient suites. That means 175 to 200 patients a year may be treated with a technique that genetically engineers the body’s T-cells, which are essential to the immune response.
Most of the patients will be enrolled in clinical trials using T-cells programmed to carry new genetic material in the form of antibody-like proteins called CARs, or chimeric antigen receptors. The cells are designed to target a protein known as CD19 on the surface of malignant B-cells, a type of white blood cell.
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Millions of T-cells are removed from the patient, genetically engineered, then reintroduced to the body. They bind to the B-cells, destroying them — and the cancer.
The new clinic will also host four trials for patients with types of solid tumors that haven’t been treated with immunotherapy, such as lung and breast cancer, Maloney said. The clinic has the advantage of having its own manufacturing plant on site to produce the cells.
The Bezos family, including Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, has had a long interest in Fred Hutch and immunotherapy, Fred Hutch officials said. The $30 million in gifts has been used to generate more than $110 million in research grants and helped launch the immunology field, said Dr. Gary Gilliland, Fred Hutch president.
“In 2009, we thought this was an approach that had promise, but we didn’t have any proof of concept,” he said. “They believed in us at a time when we most needed support.”
Suzanne McCarroll, 60, a television reporter from Denver, received CAR-T therapy to treat non-Hodgkin lymphoma, an immune-system cancer, initially diagnosed in 2008. She is in remission.
“They made you feel like you were part of this big, important thing doing wonders for people’s health,” she said.