Cleveland, OH,
10:16 AM

MetroHealth Begins Work on CAR T-Cell Cancer Lab, Opening Set for September

illiam Tse, MD, MetroHealth’s director of hematology/oncology

The MetroHealth System this week began work on its new CAR T-cell cancer lab, which promises to bring cutting-edge treatment to cancer patients of all backgrounds while also fulfilling a key promise of the Innovation District.

Construction began to renovate labs in MetroHealth’s Rammelkamp Research Center. The CAR T-cell lab is expected to open in September. MetroHealth will be only the second public hospital in the United States to offer this treatment.

“This innovation allows The MetroHealth System to continue as one of the nation's pioneers in research and to make outstanding medical testing, screening and cancer treatment available to a large, diverse population and, in many cases, to patients who haven’t had access in the past,” said William Tse, MD, MetroHealth’s director of hematology/oncology.

The new lab will produce cellular- and vector-based therapies for the treatment of cancer. Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy is different from chemotherapy or radiation. It is a way to get a type of white blood cell called T-cells to fight cancer by changing them in a lab so they can find and destroy cancer cells.

According to the American Cancer Society, the immune system recognizes foreign substances in the body by finding proteins called antigens. T-cells have their own proteins called receptors that attach to foreign antigens and help trigger other parts of the immune system to destroy the foreign substance.

Each foreign antigen has a unique immune receptor that is able to bind to it. Cancer cells also have antigens, but if your immune cells don't have the right receptors, they can't attach to the antigens and help destroy the cancer cells.

In this form of treatment, blood is drawn from a patient. T-cells are extracted and then changed by adding a gene, which helps the T-cells attach to a specific cancer cell antigen and fight the cancer. Those cells are grown and multiplied in the lab over several weeks and then put back into the patient.

This relatively new treatment is viewed as having less side effects than chemotherapy or radiation treatments.

This immunotherapy treatment has typically been only available to patients with extensive insurance plans. With its diverse patient base, MetroHealth will be able to offer this groundbreaking treatment to a much larger group of patients than is typical. It will also permit MetroHealth to better prevent, diagnose and treat cancer

Part of the funding for the project comes from JobsOhio, the state’s economic development corporation. The project is part of the Innovation District, a partnership between MetroHealth, Case Western Reserve University, the Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland State University and University Hospitals.

About The MetroHealth System

The MetroHealth System is redefining health care by going beyond medical treatment to improve the foundations of community health and well-being: affordable housing, a cleaner environment, economic opportunity and access to fresh food, convenient transportation, legal help and other services. The system strives to become as good at preventing disease as it is at treating it.

The system’s more than 600 doctors, 1,700 nurses and 7,800 employees go to work each day with a mission of service, to their patients and to the community. As Cuyahoga County’s safety-net health system, MetroHealth plays an essential role in the region, caring for anyone and everyone, regardless of an ability to pay.

Founded in 1837, MetroHealth operates four hospitals, four emergency departments and more than 20 health centers throughout Cuyahoga County. The system serves more than 300,000 patients, three-quarters of whom are uninsured or covered by Medicare or Medicaid.

MetroHealth is home to Cuyahoga County’s most experienced Level I Adult Trauma Center, verified since 1992, and Ohio’s only adult and pediatric trauma and burn center. 

As an academic medical center, MetroHealth is committed to research and to teaching and training tomorrow’s caregivers. Each active staff physician holds a faculty appointment at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Its main campus hospital houses the Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s Lincoln-West School of Science & Health, the only high school in America located inside a hospital.

Knowing that good health is about much more than good medical care, MetroHealth has launched the Institute for H.O.P.E.™ (Health, Opportunity, Partnership, Empowerment), which uses a coordinated, collaborative and strategic approach to help patients with non-medical needs such as healthy food, stable housing and job training.

The MetroHealth Glick Center, a new 11-floor hospital, is under construction on the system’s main campus in Cleveland and is scheduled to welcome its first patients in October 2022. The billion-dollar project is the cornerstone of a wider neighborhood revitalization effort led by the system and its partners in the community.

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