A New Era in Cancer Immunotherapy with Tom Whitehead and Dr. Alex Marson
When his six-year-old daughter was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, Tom Whitehead was determined to do whatever it took to save her life. In 2012, Emily Whitehead became the first patient enrolled in a clinical trial of a new immunotherapy treatment known as CAR T, which would ultimately turn her immune system into a powerful weapon against cancer. A decade later, this cancer treatment is now widely used and has gone on to save hundreds of lives. Today, in this special double episode of For Your Innovation, you’ll not only hear from Tom Whitehead as he shares the details of their miraculous story, recounting the innovative research, faith, and support that got them through the most difficult time of their lives, but you’ll also gain additional insight into CAR T therapy from biologist and infectious disease physician, Dr. Alexander Marson. Dr, Marson is a Professor at UCSF and the Director of the Gladstone-UCSF Institute of Genomic Immunology. His lab focuses on adapting CRISPR genome editing techniques to human immune cells in order to understand the genetic programs controlling immune cell function and to manipulate T cells to generate cell-based therapies for a wide range of diseases, including cancer. For a fascinating look at the patient/family/caregiver experience of cancer immunotherapy, intersected with that of a scientist who works on these novel and innovative therapies every day, listen to today’s episode!
Key Points From This Episode:
- An overview of Emily Whitehead’s diagnosis and her early days of treatment.
- How Tom and Kari discovered the clinical trial for CAR T-cell therapy.
- Resources to help you understand the different phases of a clinical trial.
- The critical role that faith and gut instinct played in Emily’s miraculous story.
- What it was like to work with Dr. Carl June.
- An understanding of cytokine release syndrome and why it’s so dangerous.
- The importance of creating support networks for parents of cancer patients.
- Why education and advocacy are vital for improving access to trials like this one.
- Advances that have been made in CAR T therapy over the past decade.
- Amazing memories the Whitehead family have made together on advocacy trips.
- Limitations and dangers of vein-to-vein time.
- Tom’s encouragement for scientists working on genetic therapies today.
- The power and science of hope.
- Why the Whitehead family advocated for the COVID vaccine.
- How this experience has changed the Whitehead family’s life.
- Why none of this would have been possible without investors.
- Dr. Alex Marson explains the science behind the miracle of CAR T therapy.
- Promises and challenges of autologous versus allogeneic cell therapy.
- Thoughts on the FDA lifting its clinical hold on Allogene’s CAR T-cell therapy trials.
- Unintended chromosomal consequences from an oncological perspective.
- Different applications and how CAR T can play a big role outside of the cancer arena.
- Insight into CARpooling and how it can improve treatment outcomes for patients.
- Using CRISPR to take advantage of all the capabilities of CAR T-cell therapies.
- Reflecting on the rapid upswing of what’s possible with these emerging technologies.
- Potential at the intersection of different fields and the importance of philanthropy.