This year’s World Medical Innovation Forum delved into three key areas of biomedical innovation and healthcare: CNS/Brain Health, Oncology, and Immunology and Inflammation (I&I). Here, we highlight emerging themes in these areas that showcase the efforts of trailblazing faculty members across the Mass General Brigham system and underscore the impact of discovery and development throughout the healthcare innovation ecosystem. The themes described below also represent fields that are on the cusp of significant growth, both from the standpoint of clinical care and healthcare investment.
CAR T-cell therapy emerged as a groundbreaking treatment for patients with advanced forms of B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in 2017. Over the last several years, this therapeutic modality has undergone a remarkable evolution — propelled in part by the research and clinical innovations of Mass General Brigham faculty — as it has expanded to other liquid tumors and moved earlier in the recommended treatment regimens for advanced lymphomas.
“It’s absolutely remarkable to watch a patient whose cancer has relapsed multiple times go from being really sick to camping outside, hiking, and planning a weeklong kayaking trip,” said Matthew Frigault, MD, who is an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and clinical director of the Cellular Immunotherapy Program at Massachusetts General Hospital. “Instead of talking about a patient’s disease and very scary end-of-life things, now after successful CAR T therapy, we talk about real life. How are the kids? What are you doing this summer? It’s just phenomenal to see that as a clinician.” The Gene and Cell Therapy Institute (GCTI) was established to unify the more than 400 Mass General Brigham researchers and clinicians working on gene and cell therapy innovations. The objective of the Gene and Cell Therapy Institute is to translate the scientific discoveries made by these researchers to first-in-human clinical trials. Working within the Mass General Brigham health care system, the Gene and Cell Therapy Institute is dedicated to delivering innovative targeted treatments that potentially can cure disease or halt its progression.
As game-changing as CAR T-cell therapy is for some patients, not every patient responds to the treatment. Moreover, the therapy is complex, and comes with a host of challenges. “It’s important to remember that these are really complicated therapies to manufacture and administer — and for patients, to receive,” said Frigault.
That complexity means that current autologous CAR T-cell therapies require significant time and resources in order to perform properly and a whole new clinical enterprise to deliver them to patients. As more patients become eligible for these treatments, researchers are working to devise ways to reduce that complexity — from overcoming regulatory challenges, to streamlining manufacturing, to exploring allogeneic options.
Mass General Brigham’s Gene and Cell Therapy Institute is dedicated to holistically advancing these and other GCT technologies. We’re really just beginning to uncover the potential of these therapies,” said Frigault. “But already, CAR T-cells are becoming a mainstay of cancer therapy and that’s very exciting.”
The Gene and Cell Therapy Institute (GCTI) was established to unify the more than 400 Mass General Brigham researchers and clinicians working on gene and cell therapy innovations. The objective of the Gene and Cell Therapy Institute is to translate the scientific discoveries made by these researchers to first-in-human clinical trials. Working within the Mass General Brigham health care system, the Gene and Cell Therapy Institute is dedicated to delivering innovative targeted treatments that potentially can cure disease or halt its progression.
The World Medical Innovation Forum was established in 2015 in response to the intensifying transformation of health care and its impact on innovation. The Forum is rooted in the belief that no matter the magnitude of change, the center of health care needs to be a shared, fundamental commitment to collaborative innovation – industry and academia working together to improve patient lives. In 2022, Bank of America joined with Mass General Brigham as presenting sponsor of the Forum, bringing together two leading organizations with extensive healthcare expertise and a shared commitment to support Boston’s continued growth as a global biotech and investment hub.