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Cellular Immunotherapies and Transplantation Program

The Cellular Immunotherapies and Transplantation Program at VCU Massey Cancer Center provides leading-edge, collaborative and comprehensive care for pediatric and adult patients with a variety of blood and bone marrow disorders. We offer the latest FDA-approved CAR-T immunotherapies, clinical trials testing new and promising forms of cellular immunotherapies as well as all forms of stem cell and bone marrow transplantation. We work with referring physicians and carefully evaluate each patient before recommending an individualized treatment plan that will lead to the best possible outcomes and quality of life.

  • Overview

    BMT shirt

    VCU Massey Cancer Center is the largest adult and pediatric stem cell and bone marrow transplant provider in Virginia, and we are now leading the way in making the most advanced cellular immunotherapies available to patients in the Commonwealth and beyond. These exciting new treatments modify a patient’s own immune cells to help them fight cancer, and only the best hospitals in the nation have the comprehensive and collaborative clinical infrastructure to provide them.

    Every patient is unique, which is why we work closely with referring physicians and conduct in-depth evaluations before recommending a personalized treatment plan. From coordinating medical records and assisting with insurance and transportation to managing side effects and survivorship planning, our cellular immunotherapy and transplant coordinators work to make treatment as easy as possible for patients and their caregivers.

    Choose Massey’s Cellular Immunotherapies and Transplantation Program because our care is:

    Cutting-edge
    We offer cutting-edge, FDA-approved cellular immunotherapies, all forms of stem cell and bone marrow transplantation as well as clinical trials testing novel immunotherapies and improved transplantation techniques. Our doctors are experts in managing complex blood disorders and tailor each patient’s care to minimize side effects and improve quality of life. We are continuously working to improve donor matching while identifying and removing barriers to transplantation for patients who are not currently eligible.

    Comprehensive
    Our program provides seamless coordination throughout the arc of a patient’s needed therapy. We offer the full range of available treatments as well as access to clinical trials only available at National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers like Massey. We provide both outpatient and inpatient services in the same facility, and provide a suite of support services that range from helping minimize symptoms and side effects to coping with the cognitive, emotional and psychological effects of cancer.

    Collaborative
    Collaboration is essential when providing some of the world’s most advanced cancer treatments. The Cellular Immunotherapies and Transplantation Program relies on the expertise and coordination of many different clinical teams throughout Massey and VCU Health to provide the complex and individualized care that our patients need.

    Customized
    At Massey, we evaluate each patient and recommend a treatment plan that will provide the best possible outcome and quality of life. Some patients may be candidates for FDA-approved CAR-T therapy, while others may benefit from stem cell transplantation or even a combination of the two approaches. We also tailor pre-and post-transplant care to each patient to minimize side effects and improve recovery.

    Compassionate
    We understand how difficult cancer care can be, especially when long hospital stays are required. This is especially true for children and young adults, who must put their lives on hold while their friends and loved ones continue to live theirs. We are your partner in long-term health. Through respectful, attentive and compassionate care, our care team builds healing relationships with our patients that focus on recovery and survivorship. We work closely with a large team of supportive care specialists to address the psychological and social impacts of cancer.

     

    Our program is conveniently located at VCU Medical Center in downtown Richmond:

    Cellular Immunotherapies and Transplantation Outpatient Clinic
    North Hospital, 7th Floor
    1300 E. Marshall St.
    Richmond, VA 23298

    Cellular Immunotherapies and Transplantation In-patient Unit
    North Hospital, 10th Floor
    1300 E. Marshall St.
    Richmond, VA 23298

    Free valet parking is available at the North Hospital entrance for outpatient appointments. Also, self-parking ($2) is available at VCU Medical Center’s Patient and Visitor Parking Deck, located near the corner of 12th and Leigh streets.

  • Treatment

    McCarty with patient

    At Massey, an entire team of specialists evaluates each patient to recommend a personalized treatment plan. The benefits and risks of each treatment are carefully considered and discussed with the patient. Your medical team will recommend the combination and sequence of care that is most likely to result in the best outcomes and quality of life based on your unique medical, social and emotional needs. Your cellular immunotherapy and transplant coordinator will guide you and your caregivers through each step of the process, and you will have access to comprehensive supportive care.

    Treatments may include:

    CAR-T therapy

    CAR-T therapy is an exciting new type of immunotherapy in which a patient's T-cells, a type of immune system cell, are genetically modified in the laboratory so they will attack cancer cells. T-cells are taken from a patient’s blood through a process called apheresis, in which blood is collected from the vein, filtered and separated by a machine and then returned to the patient. Then, the gene for a special receptor that binds to a certain protein on the patient’s cancer cells is added. The special receptor is called a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR). Large numbers of the CAR-T cells are grown in the laboratory and then given to the patient by infusion.

    Providing CAR-T therapies requires extensive coordination of many different clinical teams due to the complex nature and potential side effects of cellular immunotherapies. Patients treated with CAR-T therapies at Massey are required to stay in the hospital for seven days after CAR-T infusion and be within a 30-minute drive to Massey for the following month. During this time, patients are closely monitored for side effects and given exclusive and immediate access to medical care at any time for any reason.

    Current CAR-T therapies:

    • Yescarta™ by Kite Pharmaceutical
      Massey is among the first cancer care providers in the nation to offer Yescarta™ (axicabtagene ciloleucel) for adult patients with large B-cell lymphoma subtypes including diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, high grade B-cell lymphoma, primary mediastinal B-cell lymphoma, and transformed follicular lymphoma. To be eligible, patients must have received two or more other forms of cancer treatment which did not successfully treat their cancer.

    Because Massey is one of the few cancer care providers with the clinical expertise and resources to provide CAR-T therapies, we are also able to participate in clinical trials testing new and promising forms of cellular immunotherapies. Click on our research tab [link to research tab] to view open clinical trials.

    Transplantation

    Massey has been providing bone marrow and stem cell transplantation options continuously since 1988. Now the largest and most comprehensive transplant provider in Virginia, our patients can receive any available transplant source and option without being referred elsewhere, including related, unrelated, autologous (self) and umbilical cord blood transplants. Good patient outcomes have helped place Massey’s BMT program among the largest and fastest-growing programs in the nation.

    During bone marrow or stem cell transplantation, a patient’s immune system is replaced with the healthy immune system of a related or unrelated donor, or with stem cells collected and stored from umbilical cord blood. First, the patient’s own blood-producing stem cells are eliminated through high-dose chemotherapy so that the new, healthy immune system can be transplanted. In autologous transplants, a patient’s own stem cells are collected before their cancer cells and blood producing stem cells are destroyed with chemotherapy. The stem cells are then given back to the patient to regrow their blood cells.

    Candidates for transplantation often have various forms of blood cancers, such as leukemias, as well as sickle cell anemia and other hematologic malignancies and immune disorders. In particular, candidates are patients who have relapsed or recurrent cancer, patients whose cancer did not fully respond to standard-dose therapy and patients at a high risk for relapse with standard-dose therapy.

    Our inpatient treatment unit and outpatient clinic are specifically designed for the treatment needs of transplant patients and their families, and are conveniently located in downtown Richmond on the VCU Medical Center campus with free valet parking for outpatient appointments.

    A critical component of our program is our Cellular Therapeutics Lab, which allows physicians to perform procedures more specifically tailored to individual cancer patients’ needs as opposed to broadly supporting intensive, high-dose chemotherapy treatments used in bone marrow transplantation. The lab allows specific cellular elements of the patient’s or donor’s immune system to be isolated or adapted to work as a focused therapy for cancer or immune-mediated disorders, providing new hope for patients with a myriad of disease.

  • Specialists

    The Cellular Immunotherapies and Transplantation Program spans many different disciplines and includes specialists from throughout Massey and VCU Health. This highly coordinated and collaborative care is led by:

    Hematologist-Oncologists

    Image of Harold Chung, MDHarold Chung, M.D. Image of William Clark, M.D.William Clark, M.D. Image of John M. McCarty, M.D., director
John M. McCarty, M.D., director Image of Gary Simmons, D.O.
Gary Simmons, D.O. Image of Amir Toor, M.D.
Amir Toor, M.D. Image of Christina Wiedl, D.O.
Christina Wiedl, D.O.

    Massey's hematologists-oncologists are faculty in the Division of Hematology, Oncology and Palliative Care within the Department of Internal Medicine of the VCU School of Medicine at VCU Health.

    Neuro-oncologists

    Image of Zhijian Chen, M.D., Ph.D.
Zhijian Chen, M.D., Ph.D. Image of Mark Malkin, M.D., director
Mark Malkin, M.D., director Image of Alicia M. Zukas, M.D.Alicia M. Zukas, M.D.

    Massey’s neuro-oncologists are faculty in the Division of Neuro-oncology within the Department of Neurology of the VCU School of Medicine at VCU Health.

    Cellular immunotherapy and transplant coordinator

    Judith C. Davis, R.N.

    Social worker

    Jennifer Blosser, L.C.S.W.

    Cellular immunotherapy and transplant coordinator

    Judith C. Davis, R.N.

    Social workers

    Karen Mullin, M.S.W. (patients A-J)

    Jennifer Blosser, A.C.S.W., L.C.S.W., C.-S.W.H.C. (patients K-Z) 

     

  • Research

    T-Cell attacking cancer

    The field of cellular immunotherapies and stem cell transplantation is advancing rapidly as scientists discover new and better ways to harness the power of the immune system to fight cancer. These exciting new immunotherapies and transplant techniques are first available in clinical trials, which are research studies testing new treatments before they are commercially approved. These types of studies are typically only available at National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers like Massey.

    Clinical trials available through Massey’s Cellular Immunotherapies and Transplantation Program include:

    C-144-01: A phase 2, multicenter study to assess the efficacy and aafety of autologous tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (LN-144) for treatment of patients with metastatic melanoma

    15-MMUD: A multi-center, phase 2 trial of HLA-mismatched unrelated donor bone marrow transplantation with post-transplantation cyclophosphamide for patients with hematologic malignancies    

    BMT-CTN-1101: A multi-center, phase 3, randomized trial of reduced intensity conditioning (RIC) and transplantation of double unrelated umbilical cord blood (dUCB) versus HLA-haploidentical related bone marrow (haplo-BM) for patients with hematologic malignancies

    E1910: A phase III randomized trial of blinatumomab for newly diagnosed BCR-ABL-negative B lineage acute lymphoblastic leukemia in adults

  • Resources

    Support services

    Your cellular immunotherapy and transplant coordinator is your access to a plethora of resources available through Massey and VCU Health as well as national and local organizations. In addition to helping you navigate your medical care, they also work with referring providers and primary care physicians, help with insurance claims and lodging needs, and they connect patients and caregivers with other resources such as social workers, pain and symptom management experts, nutritionists, legal and financial assistance resources, support groups and more.

    More information about resources available to our patients can be found in our Patient education manual.

    Caregiver resources

    Massey offers a class designed for caregivers of bone marrow, stem cell or cord blood transplant patients who are in the pre-transplant phase or are currently admitted for transplant. Class participants will receive the information and resources needed to provide proper post-transplant care. This preparation is critical to the recovery process and will help reduce stress on the patient and caregiver.

    Topics covered in the class will build upon the information caregivers receive throughout the transplant process such as dietary advice, important information for emergency situations, medication information, financial information, long-term follow-up (LTFU) information, how to care for the caregiver and more.

    The class meets the second and fourth Thursday of every month. For more information, please call Lynn Hoffman, R.N., at (804) 628-4694.

    We encourage all who are able to attend the classes in person as they offer the opportunity for caregivers to ask our team questions and to meet and learn from other caregivers. But for those who are unable to attend the class, below are videos of each part of the class. Please download the Patient Education Manual from above to follow along.

    Additional resources

    At VCU Massey Cancer Center, we believe that treating the whole person, not just the disease, is the best way to care for patients and family members coping with cancer. We take a holistic approach to address not just your medical and physical needs, but also your psychological, emotional and social needs. We offer comprehensive cancer support services to care for you throughout your cancer journey that range from helping minimize symptoms and side effects to helping evaluate and cope with the emotional and psychological effects of cancer. These services include:

    Communication assistance

    Integrative health resources, including acupressure, art therapy, music therapy, pet therapy and tobacco cessation counseling. Complementary therapies are not substitutes for medical care but are used together with medical treatments to help patients alleviate stress and anxiety, reduce pain, manage symptoms and promote a feeling of well-being.

    Financial assistance for qualifying patients in need

    • Genetic counseling by board-certified genetic counselors in Richmond’s only Familial Cancer Clinic

    Healing garden

    Legal assistance for qualifying patients in need

    Lodging for qualifying patients in need

    Nutritionists

    Palliative care by an international award-winning team for the management of pain and symptoms, including an outpatient Supportive Care Clinic

    • Patient education, including libraries and health programming geared to cancer patients and their caregivers

    Pharmacy services, including in-hospital oncology pharmacies

    • Psychological counseling

    Rehabilitation by one of the nation’s longest-running cancer rehabilitation programs with physical, occupational and speech therapy especially geared for cancer patients

    Spiritual counseling

    Social work for patients in need

    Support groups

    •Another, external resource: Cullather Brain Tumor Quality Life Center

    • Transportation assistance for qualifying patients in need – ask your social worker for more information

    Wig salons that provide free hats, scarves and wigs as well as private head-wear consultation services

    Learn more about our patient resources and integrative medicine

 MAKE AN APPOINTMENT ONLINE

or call (804) 828-4360

Patient Stories

When John McCarty, M.D., director of Massey’s Cellular Immunotherapies and Transplantation Program, told Reed Whitener that his multiple myeloma was cured, it was a very bright moment at the end of 18 long, and often very dark, months of fighting for his life. Thanks to new treatments developed through clinical trials, Whitener was one of the first patients to be considered “cured” of this deadly disease.

Clinical trials

Find a clinical trial.

Learn more:

Massey becomes first provider in Virginia to offer CAR-T gene therapies

Information about bone marrow transplantation

In the news:

Transplant patient's family support, care 'created a true miracle'