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Empowering the Immune System to Kill Cancer


In a landmark decision for the field of cancer immunotherapy, the FDA approved a personalized cellular therapy created by Penn Medicine and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in collaboration with Novartis for the treatment of patients up to 25 years old with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. For more information, read the news release.

A short documentary film detailing the story of the first pediatric patient to receive Penn Medicine’s personalized cellular therapy, produced by Ross Kauffman.
Personalized Cellular Therapy Infographic
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CAR T for Leukemia Patients

With the discovery of the first gene therapy to be approved by the FDA, Penn Medicine is leading the world in immunotherapy research. Physicians at Penn and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia have worked together to treat nearly 500 blood cancer patients in clinical trials for personalized cellular therapies.

Take a look at our frequently asked questions to learn more about personalized CAR T-cell therapy and who may be a candidate.

If you are an adult patient who has been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and are interested in T cell therapies at Penn Medicine, please call 215-316-5127 for more information. For information about the Cancer Immunotherapy Program at CHOP, please call 267-426-0762. 

Active Immunotherapy Clinical Trials

Our success in personalized cellular therapy does not stop with leukemia. We are continuing to develop and test cancer vaccines, immune modulatory drugs and cell based therapies for both blood and solid tumor cancers. 

There are a number of CAR T clinical trials available at Penn Medicine, and they continue to be an area of priority for our researchers and clinicians. Find out if there is a clinical trial right for you. 

To learn more about what clinical trials are, watch our video What is A Clinical Trial? 

How Does the Immune System Fight Cancer?

It doesn't without a boost. Imagine a drug or therapy that could treat disease by helping the immune system do its job better. That is the idea behind immunotherapy – treatments designed to boost the immune system.

Immunotherapy is now a powerful addition to Penn’s cancer-fighting arsenal of surgery, targeted therapies, and precision radiation treatments. Its researchers are working relentlessly to realize the full potential of this innovative approach: reprogramming the body’s own immune cells to seek and destroy every last cancer cell.

Watch the video to your right to learn about our personalized cell therapy.

Carl June and Robert Vonderheide working together in a laboratory

How Immunotherapy Works

The immune system relies on a powerful army of "T cells." They on are on the front line of our body's defenses. Their mission is to search and destroy anything that causes illness or infection. With cancer, the immune system often fails to deploy T cells right away or at all. When it does, the attack is ineffective.

This is where immunotherapy comes in. This new class of drugs works either by empowering the T cell army so that it is bigger, stronger or smarter, or by taking down the obstacles in its path.

Dynamic Research

The Abramson Cancer Center's dynamic research program is always growing. Major areas of focus for immunotherapy research include CAR T therapy, vaccine therapy and checkpoint inhibitors.

Immune Cells Killed Doug's Cancer

For 20 years, Doug Olson lived with an enemy determined to take his life: chronic lymphocytic leukemia or CLL, a cancer that starts in the bone marrow. Over 14 years, Doug endured four rounds of conventional chemotherapy to control his CLL. But the cancer was relentless and progressing. 

His oncologist, David Porter, MD, suggested something revolutionary and that's when he learned about the immunotherapy research study.

Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy

Launch of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, with Carl June

Penn was one of six top medical institutions chosen to form the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy. The mission is to accelerate breakthrough immune therapies to turn cancer into a curable disease. It brings together the top minds in cancer to share ideas and findings.

Penn's success with leukemia has led to breakthroughs in myeloma and work in solid tumor cancers, diabetes, cardiology and Parkinson's - and will eventually extend to many diseases.

Latest News Releases

Penn Immunotherapy in the News