A longtime patient of University Hospitals in Cleveland, Ohio, has donated US$10 million for a brand-new research center after benefiting from an innovative cancer treatment.
The generous donation from Joseph Wesley and his wife, Kimberly, is funding the creation of the Wesley Center for Immunotherapy at UH Seidman Cancer Center. Physicians and scientists will use the space to conduct research into groundbreaking, potentially lifesaving immunotherapy treatment for cancer patients.
With the money, the hospital will also be able to recruit a leader in the field.
“When a cancerous growth larger than a half-dollar appeared on my cheek, I immediately went to Dr. [Ted] Teknos,” Wesley explained in a University Hospitals press release. Dr. Teknos advised his patient that surgery was not an option and turned, instead, to immunotherapy.
“Today, the growth is smaller than a dime and I will continue until I’m cancer-free,” Wesley explained, adding that he and his wife chose to make their $10 million donation as “firm believers in the power of immunotherapy.” The couple wants others to benefit from the innovative treatment that has so vastly improved Wesley’s prognosis.
Immunotherapy is a treatment that works by employing the body’s own natural defenses to fight diseases such as cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. The treatment works either by stimulating the immune system or by using pharmaceuticals to boost immunity, equipping the body to identify and fight cancer cells itself.
“It’s much less toxic to the body because it actually uses your own immune system to fight,” Dr. Teknos told WKYC.
“I hope it helps a lot of people,” added Kimberley Wesley. “[My husband] has gone through so much. I call him Superman.”
Clinical trials, according to the press release, have so far proven to boost remission and survival rates in patients, as well as decrease side effects, when compared to conventional chemotherapy.
Immunotherapy has shown the greatest promise in the treatment of melanomas but can also subdue lung cancers, blood cancers, cystic fibrosis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Dr. Teknos personally testifies to high success rates among immunotherapy trial patients at Seidman Cancer Center.
“Of the 22 patients who have completed immunotherapy trials by receiving UH generated CAR-T cells,” Teknos explained, “there’s been an overall response rate of 85 percent and a 70 percent rate of complete remission.”
University Hospitals, Dr. Teknos added, is one of fewer than 12 academic medical centers in the United States that has successfully manufactured CAR-T cells for use in human patients.
Thomas F. Zenty III, UH chief executive officer, described immunotherapy as “an increasingly frequent component of cancer care,” adding that the “extraordinary gift from the Wesleys will help ensure UH is able to increase our capacity to treat patients with new therapies.”
Besides hosting 61 immunotherapy trials, UH experts are also working on minimizing the production time for CAR-T cells for use in treatment. Experts have thus far managed to produce cells in eight days, down from a comparable average of 12 to 30 days in “commercially available” CAR-T trials.
All of this research is working toward a firm goal to make immunotherapy the first option for Seidman Cancer Center patients in the future.
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