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Our Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre is one of only three centres in the province approved to provide CAR T-cell therapy to adult patients. This month, hematologist Dr. Ronan Foley will treat a CAR T-cell therapy patient with a new medication that’s bringing hope to even more patients.
February 1, 2023

New personalized cancer treatment is giving patients an improved chance at long-lasting remission

HAMILTON – February 4 is World Cancer Day and one Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) patient is grateful for a new treatment that could bring long-lasting remission.

“I was considered palliative, but thanks to this new treatment I have hope,” says Blair Chown, 71, from the Leamington-area and a one-time radio personality and retired millwright who has mantle cell lymphoma. This aggressive type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma develops in the outer edge of a lymph node, called the mantle zone. About 8,000 people a year in Canada are diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Of those, only about 100 receive a mantle cell diagnosis.

“The war on cancer has traditionally been fought on three fronts – radiation, chemotherapy and surgery,” says Dr. Ronan Foley, Chown’s hematologist at Hamilton Health Sciences Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre (JHCC). “But now there’s a fourth front – immunotherapy — and it’s offering new hope to many cancer patients.”

Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that helps a person’s immune system fight cancer. CAR T-cell therapy, which Chown will undergo this month at JHCC, is an immunotherapy that involves changing a patient’s T-cells in a laboratory so they’ll attack cancer cells.

The made-in-California medication containing Chown’s genetically-engineered cells is called Tecartus (brexucabtagene autoleucel). Funding for Tecartus was approved for JHCC just a few weeks ago, and Chown will be the cancer centre’s first patient to receive CAR T-cell therapy with it.

Chown is scheduled for his CAR T-cell therapy this month, which includes three days of low-dose chemotherapy to help prepare his body to accept the new, modified killer cells. “Once infused, CAR T-cells go on to multiply in the body and continue fighting the cancer,” says Foley. “It’s a one-and-done treatment, since patients typically need only one CAR T-cell infusion.”

“Thanks to this new treatment I have hope,” says Chown, who with his wife Linda is a busy community volunteer who also raised three children as well as being foster parents to 50 children and teens over the years.

“I’m so grateful for this treatment, and the care I’ve received in Hamilton,” says Chown. ”I have tremendous confidence in the team there. They have been superb.”

JHCC is one of only three centres in the province approved to provide CAR T-cell therapy to adult patients. JHCC is the only hospital in the region where patients can be treated for all forms of cancer, with its staff and doctors supporting more than 26,000 cancer patients each year.

For more information on Blair Chown’s story and this new treatment, please visit https://www.hamiltonhealthsciences.ca/share/tecartus-car-t-cell-therapy/.

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