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Innovative therapy offers new hope for patients who are not responsive to other cancer treatments.
NorthShore clinicians are celebrating the recent discharge of its first Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cell (CAR T) therapy patient. The innovative treatment offers a potential game-changer for patients as it helps to modify a patient’s T cells (a type of immune cell) to make them more capable of fighting cancer.
The 5 South Searle team at Evanston Hospital were among those caring for NorthShore’s first CAR T patient
“This is an important move forward for patients whose disease was not responsive to other treatments,” said NorthShore Hematologist David Grinblatt, MD, who led the team that developed the program for lymphoma patients at NorthShore.
Bringing CAR T to Evanston Hospital, and effectively all of NorthShore—Edward-Elmhurst Health, has been in the works for about a year, explained clinicians. The program development team first needed to identify a partnering company to assist in collecting a patient’s own immune cells through a process similar to dialysis, engineering them to fight the lymphoma cells and then return them back to the patient. A multidisciplinary team involving Kellogg Cancer Center, nursing and pharmacy also needed extra training to be prepared to swiftly react when CAR T patients experience setbacks during treatment. Cytokine Release Syndrome (CRS) and Immune Effector Cell Associated Neurotoxicity Syndrome (ICANS) are potential complications from the treatment; nurses typically round on CAR T patients more frequently to keep those problems at bay. The inpatient portion of CAR T therapy treatment typically lasts about two weeks. NorthShore’s patient left Evanston Hospital after 12 days with a heartfelt “goodbye line” filled with staff.
“It’s been exciting to be part of this important step,” said Carole Smith, MSN, RN, Assistant Vice President, Nursing. She emphasized that the success of CAR T extended well beyond clinical teams, noting that team members from billing, insurance, and many others were instrumental in getting the program up and running.
Kim Cholewa, Nurse Manager, 5 South Searle, said she is especially proud of the “impressive level of nursing skill and attention provided to this patient” and the “collective efforts of the entire multidisciplinary team of attending physicians, APNs, residents, pharmacy, and nursing that ensured the safe and comprehensive collaboration of care.”
Leaders expect to take on about 5-8 CAR T patients per year.