Children’s National Hospital is one of the few programs in the world offering a pediatric cellular therapy program. This novel treatment helps children as well as adults for whom conventional cancer treatments have not been successful.
World-Class Cellular Therapy Program at Children’s National
Nearly four in 10 children with blood cancers who undergo a bone marrow transplant suffer a relapse. Many others experience life-threatening infections. In addition, pediatric patients with brain tumors and other solid tumors who relapse after conventional therapy have poorer prognoses. This innovative treatment works by using your child’s own immune system (T-cells) to fight cancer or life threatening infections.
Highlights of our program include:
- We are the only pediatric program in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia accredited by the Foundation for Accreditation of Cellular Therapy (FACT).
- We run our own cellular therapy labs to manufacture the highest quality T-cells.
- Our program pioneers new approaches using T-cells from a newborn baby’s umbilical cord to make treatments safe and effective in children who would otherwise have no donor.
- We are the only program in the region focusing on virus-specific cellular therapy.
- We offer novel cell therapies for pediatric patients with solid tumors.
- Our program leads efforts to help make cellular therapy available in other hospitals.
Groundbreaking Cellular Therapy Research
We have an entire research team dedicated exclusively to cellular therapy. This team includes Catherine Bollard, M.D., MBChB, one of the nation’s foremost researchers on this topic. Through groundbreaking research and clinical trials, we are using cellular therapy to improve outcomes for pediatric as well as adult patients with cancer and life threatening virus associated diseases.
One thing that makes us unique is our expertise in all aspects of cellular therapy. This includes being one of the only programs using cellular therapy to fight viral infections including viruses that no other programs have treated, such as norovirus and parainfluenza virus. Most recently we have developed a novel T-cell therapy targeting SARS-CoV2 that is the virus that causes COVID-19.
Children’s National has also helped many children overcome potentially life-threatening bone marrow transplant complications as well as using T cell therapies to prevent leukemia relapse in our highest risk patients. This is why other top pediatric leukemia programs in the mid-Atlantic region refer their most complex cases to us.
Cellular Therapy: How It Works
Bone marrow transplants fight your child’s cancer, but can weaken his or her immune system. This puts your child at risk for infections. Cellular therapy trains your child’s immune system to fight cancer and infections. We also use cellular therapy as an alternative for children whose cancer isn’t responsive to other treatments.
Here’s what to expect:
- We take cells from a sample of your child’s blood or donor blood.
- Working with our three cellular therapy labs, we produce T-cells to fight specific viruses, infection, and cancer based on your child’s unique needs.
- We inject (infuse) these cells back into your child’s blood during a quick outpatient procedure.
- The T-cells travel throughout your child’s body to seek out, find, and destroy the virus or cancer. This process can take anywhere from two to six weeks.
KYMRIAH is a cutting-edge immunocellular therapy that we offer to children who have acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) that has gone into remission and then come back, or did not go into remission with other leukemia treatments.
The Cellular Therapy Labs at Children’s National
Part of our Program for Cell Enhancement and Technologies for Immunotherapy (CETI), it takes three different labs to create cellular therapy treatments. Children’s National is one of few cellular therapy programs to offer all of these labs in-house.
- Good laboratory practice lab: Here, experts develop new ideas and technology. In addition to analyzing pre-infusion T-cells for potency and toxicity, we also perform post-infusion monitoring to track your child’s progress.
- Good manufacturing practices (GMP) for Immunotherapy Lab: The lab is where we create T-cells. Children’s National is home to the only stand-alone pediatric cell therapy GMP facility accredited by FACT.
- Stem Cell Processing Laboratory: We have a dedicated bone marrow stem cell processing laboratory with specialized stem cell handling equipment. Learn more about our hematopoietic stem cell laboratory.
Cellular Therapy Clinical Trials
Through groundbreaking research and clinical trials, we are using cellular therapy to improve outcomes for pediatric as well as adult patients with cancer and life-threatening virus-associated diseases.