On June 7, OHC (Oncology Hematology Care) cellular therapy experts and the Mercy Health - Cincinnati Cancer and Cellular Therapy Center at The Jewish Hospital became the first providers in the region to treat a multiple myeloma patient with Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T-Cell Therapy, also known as CAR-T. 

Amanda Toms, 34, received the recent FDA approved therapy, Abecma, the first CAR-T Cell therapy drug for myeloma. OHC, an independent cancer practice, and The Jewish Hospital are one of four provider/ hospital groups in the state that have the drug for multiple myeloma patients.

Multiple myeloma is cancer of the plasma cells, which are found in white blood cells in our bone marrow. White blood cells typically help us fight infections by creating germ fighting antibodies, but when plasma cells turn cancerous, they multiply and produce proteins that can damage bones, organs, the immune system and our red blood cells.

Toms was just 31, newly married and working her dream job helping children and their families at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center when she started to experience pain in her left arm in the fall of 2017. She was diagnosed with a nerve condition. On New Year’s Eve, she experienced tingling in her fingers and her toes and the next morning, she was unable to feel her legs and couldn’t walk. Doctors found a mass pressing on her spine which eventually lead to a diagnosis of multiple myeloma. 

She has been in treatment since 2017, having a brief period of remission following a stem cell transplant under the care of OHC’s James H. Essell, MD, who is the Medical Director of the Cincinnati Cancer and Cellular Therapy Center. Dr. Essell works closely with her primary oncologist and notes that Amanda’s disease has been aggressive, involving her left eye and colon. Amanda has sought care throughout the country and when she and her mother read about the FDA’s approval of Abecma, they called Dr. Essell saying Toms was ready to receive cellular therapy for her cancer at OHC and The Jewish Hospital.

“In clinical trials, Abecma gave people time off from treatment,” says Toms. “While there probably will not be a cure for multiple myeloma in my lifetime, my hope is that Abecma will give me a more normal life and more time for the next treatment to come out.”

“Abecma received approval based on findings from a phase 2 clinical trial in which 83% of enrolled patients responded to the therapy in as little as one month after the infusion. During remission, patients do not need further multiple myeloma treatment, which returned quality of life back to these patients. Even more exciting will be when the clinical trials using Abecma in earlier lines of therapy are resulted. The hope is for even longer responses, again, without constant therapy,” says OHC’s Edward A. Faber Jr., DO, MS, hematologist, blood and marrow transplant specialist.

“The Cincinnati Cancer and Cellular Therapy Center treats more transplant patients with blood cancers than any other center in the Tri-State thanks to its reputation as a provider of top-quality care,” said Dr. Essell, medical oncologist, hematologist, blood and marrow transplant specialist. “Providing our patients with the most advanced treatment options is our goal and we are pleased to bring this new treatment option to multiple myeloma patients in our region.”

In 2018, The Jewish Hospital and OHC were the first providers in Greater Cincinnati to bring leading-edge cellular therapy for adults in our region with aggressive blood cancers. They have treated 31 leukemia and lymphoma patients with cellular therapy since then and have 13 multiple myeloma patients ready to receive Abecma.

With CAR-T cell therapy, doctors remove a patient’s immune system cells, modify them in a lab so they will recognize and kill their specific cancer, and then infuse them back into the patient. The modified cells stay in the body, where they kill cancer cells, continue to multiply, and act as surveillance, prepared to attack returning cancer.

OHC has the most experienced cancer specialists in the region certified to offer this advanced treatment to adults, and the Cincinnati Cancer and Cellular Therapy Center at The Jewish Hospital is one of a few centers in the U.S. with certification to provide CAR-T. For more information, contact OHC at 1-888-649-4800.