Woman undergoing proton therapy

Female patient undergoing proton therapy.

It's one thing to survive cancer. It's another to survive cancer and emerge from treatment without significant changes to your quality of life.

At University of Maryland Cancer Network, our experts use new modalities of care, including immunotherapy and proton therapy, to successfully treat patients' cancers with minimal side effects and impacts to surrounding healthy organs. As a result, patients are not only surviving – they are thriving.

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy activates a patient's immune system to destroy cancer and has been shown to increase survival rates for many different types of cancer. The University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center (UMGCCC) offers several cancer immunotherapies and research trials.

In 2018, the center began offering a groundbreaking treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma known as Yescarta, a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Specialists use this inpatient therapy to treat adults with certain types of large B-cell lymphoma.

"We are the first center in Maryland, Virginia and Delaware to be qualified to do commercial CAR T-cell therapy for aggressive lymphomas," said Aaron P. Rapoport, MD, the Gary Jobson Professor in Medical Oncology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "To date, we have treated more than 50 patients who have relapsed and refractory B-cell lymphoma and B-cell leukemia. These patients had no other treatment options."

The therapy can have a long-lasting impact on patients' health. About 85 percent of the patients treated with CAR T-cell therapy at UMGCCC are survivors, and more than 50 percent have no evidence of blood cancer, Dr. Rapoport said.

In May, Novartis certified UMGCCC to offer Kymriah, another CAR T-cell therapy for adult patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, as well as adolescents and young adults with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-cell ALL).

"We have an outstanding team of doctors and nurses and coordinators who have enabled this CAR T-cell program to launch and succeed," Dr. Rapoport said. "It requires a lot of close coordination of care, especially with oncology and critical care medicine to ensure that the cells are selected, delivered and that patients receive the robust care they need to get safely through the treatment."

UMGCCC also has a number of clinical trials using CAR T therapy for patients with lymphoma, leukemia and myeloma.

Proton Therapy

Proton therapy is a type of radiation therapy that uses positively charged particles called protons instead of x-rays to treat cancer.

Unlike traditional radiation therapy, the radiation dose in proton therapy stops at the tumor site, reducing radiation exposure to surrounding healthy tissue. As a result, patients experience fewer side effects, and damage to critical organs such as the heart, lungs, brain, spinal cord, liver or rectum, is prevented.

The Maryland Proton Treatment Center, an affiliate of UMGCCC, opened in 2016 as the first proton center in the Baltimore-Washington region. Since then, it has treated more than 1,700 patients with cancers ranging from breast and brain to prostate and head and neck.

"Sixty percent of all cancer patients get radiation therapy," said William F. Regine, MD, the center's executive director and the Isadore & Fannie Foxman Schneider Endowed Chairman and Professor of Radiation Oncology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "While conventional radiation therapy is still an excellent option for patients, about 20 to 30 percent of the patients receiving it may experience significant injury to surrounding, healthy organs. Studies show proton therapy can reduce those injuries."

For example, lung and esophagus cancer patients that receive proton therapy experience 41 to 57 percent fewer lung complications, prostate cancer patients up to 62 percent fewer rectal complications and brain tumor patients improved cognitive function and quality of life compared to those receiving conventional radiation therapy, Dr. Regine said.

Insurance companies approve treatment for nearly 85 percent of patients evaluated at the center, he said.

For more information about CAR T-cell therapy, email Dr. Rapoport.

For more information about the Maryland Proton Center, email Dr. Regine.

About the UM Cancer Network

With the NCI-designated UM Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center as its hub, the UM Cancer Network offers patients access to nationally-renowned experts, cutting edge treatments and technologies, and the latest clinical trials. Learn more about the UM Cancer Network.

High Performing Hospitals | US News & World Report | 2021-22 | Cancer