In the field of cancer, patients have had surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy as options. Now, as City of Hope officially opens the Alpha Clinic for Cell Therapy and Innovation, patients battling cancer and other life-threatening diseases have another option: stem cell-based therapy.
The Alpha Clinic, which officially opened March 19, is funded by an $8 million, five-year grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine that will be supplemented by matching funds from City of Hope. It will combine the uniquely patient-centred care for which City of Hope is known with the most innovative, stem cell-based therapies being studied to date. The approach is expected to revolutionize the treatment of not only cancer, but also AIDS and other life-threatening diseases.
City of Hope’s first trials will study cellular therapy for leukaemia, as well as the use of neural stem cells to deliver treatments to brain tumours. The first is one of several similar studies in which patients’ own immune cells are modified to be able to recognize and fight cancer cells. Researchers hope the modified cells will be able to attack existing cancer cells, and also be able to attack the cancer again should it recur.
Patients will also be able to enrol in a study that uses neural stem cells, which naturally home to tumour cells, as a delivery mechanism for cancer drugs. The cells are able to bring targeted therapies across the blood-brain barrier, and can potentially deliver drugs directly to tumour sites, eliminating toxicity.
The clinic launched officially on March 19. Future trials will include T cell immunotherapy for blood cancer, new brain cancer therapies, treatments for breast cancer metastases and ovarian cancer treatments. Zaia said the clinic also plans to work with City of Hope’s diabetes researchers to introduce treatments for diabetes, exploring both the potential of pancreatic stem cells and preventing the immune system from attacking insulin-producing cells.