A locally-based charitable foundation and the community came together to improve cancer treatment at St. Luke's.
In December, the Treasure Valley-based Holland M. Ware Charitable Foundation offered a match amount to St. Luke's CAR T cell therapy program, then boosted that amount to $350,000 in January. The goal was to hit the amount on Valentine's Day, during American Heart Month. The number was successfully hit, raising $367,000 from more than 90 donors as of Monday.
The funds raised will go toward offering CAR T-cell therapy in Idaho, a cutting-edge cancer treatment that St. Luke’s Cancer Institute is hoping to bring to Boise this year. CAR T therapy has shown to be highly effective in eliminating even advanced cancers, and in addition to blood cancers, is being studied for the possibility of treating many other types of cancer.
CAR T is a type of treatment in which a patient's own T-cells (the type of immune cells that can fight cancer cells) have instructions put into their genes in the laboratory. These instructions make them able to attack and kill the patient’s cancer cells when given back to the patient through an intravenous infusion.
Today, CAR-T Cell therapy is FDA-approved for the treatment of several types of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and acute lymphoblastic leukemia. It is in advanced clinical trials for the treatment of acute myeloid leukemia, and early research trials for a number of cancers like breast cancer, colon cancer, brain cancer and lung cancer.
Currently, patients seeking this therapy would need to travel to Portland, Seattle, or Salt Lake City, which can be especially costly when coupled with the need to be near the treatment center for approximately 45 days. Fundraising efforts have been in progress to raise $1.5 million needed to purchase expensive equipment and expand space at St. Luke’s to offer this valuable cancer therapy.
Once the needed funds are raised, St. Luke’s can begin work to build the new CAR T cell therapy clinic. There, patients will receive all of the care involved in the CAR-T cell therapy in one space, only sending patients to the hospital if they need hospitalization.