Roswell Park Earns Distinction for Cellular Immunotherapy Through BlueCross BlueShield

Cancer center is one of two New York State Blue Distinction Centers for CAR-T

BUFFALO, N.Y. — As Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center continues to utilize the latest immunotherapies that spell hope for so many of our patients, BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York has recognized us as a Blue Distinction Center for Cellular Immunotherapy — CAR-T (chimeric antigen receptor). The center is one of two to receive this distinction in New York State.

BlueCross BlueShield defines Blue Distinction Centers as centers committed to bettering patient safety and health outcomes. For the CAR-T designation, hospitals must be certified by a U.S. Food and Drug Administration program to provide such therapies and commit to system-wide monitoring of patient outcomes. 

In 2018, Roswell Park received approval to offer two FDA-approved CAR-T therapies, Yescarta® (axicabtagene ciloleucel) and Kymriah® (tisagenlecleucel). These cellular therapies are designed to help a patient’s immune system fight specific types of leukemia and lymphoma. The treatment process starts with collecting a patient’s T-cells from the blood, then genetically modifying those cells to include a new gene that helps strengthen their ability to find and kill cancer cells.

“These are options for certain leukemia and lymphoma patients whose disease has persisted or recurred after initial therapy,” says Philip McCarthy, MD, Director of Roswell Park’s Transplant and Cellular Therapy Center. “Many of these patients have had a prior blood or marrow transplant, are not eligible for a BMT or are in the situation where the CAR-T cell therapy is a ‘bridge’ to control their disease until a transplant is possible. We are honored to be acknowledged by BlueCross BlueShield as a Blue Distinction Center for Cellular Immunotherapy. These treatments have resulted in long-term disease control and possibly cure for many of our patients, leading to improved quality of life and activity.”

Patients who come to the center for cellular therapy are monitored by a team of experts who meet weekly to ensure the best possible care. In addition to offering FDA-approved therapies, Roswell Park staff are engaged in ongoing immunotherapy research, investigating different approaches to cellular therapy. Clinical trials open up a broad range of treatment options and can lead to new guidelines and FDA approval of newer and better therapies.

In addition to the CAR-T designation, Roswell Park is also a Blue Distinction Center for both Transplants and Cancer Care.