A new collaboration enables new cell therapy treatments for HUS patients

HUS, the Finnish Red Cross Blood Service and the University of Helsinki have entered into a cooperation agreement to promote experimental treatments and clinical trials using cell therapy products as part of the treatment of patients.

The Blood Service has invested in new cell therapies since 2009. One result of this work is a mesenchymal stem cell product aimed at treating severe graft-versus-host disease after stem cell transplant. The product has been administered to patients in Helsinki and Turku University Hospitals. The goal of the newly formed collaboration is to create the conditions for the introduction of the next, development-stage cell therapy products in HUS.

Doctors prescribe experimental treatments to patients whose prognosis is otherwise poor and when no other treatments are available. Promising results have for instance been reported globally from cell therapies, where the patient’s own cells of the immune system are modified in laboratory conditions and used in the treatment of hematological malignancies (so called CAR T technology).  

- The hope is that, in the future, the new cell therapies will offer treatment opportunities for diseases that previously have been considered incurable, explains Johanna Mattson, director of the Cancer Centre at HUS.

Cells are received from the patient or a donor

HUS possesses the clinical and scientific expertise required for the collaboration and it also has patients in need of treatments. If necessary, HUS can also respond to national and international demand regarding new cell therapies.

- For the University of Helsinki, the cooperation creates a possibility to introduce innovations related to new cell therapies to clinical trials in the hospital. The university also participates in the production of pre-clinical evidence on the safety and efficacy of the products required by authorities, says professor Kim Vettenranta from the University of Helsinki.

The Blood Service’s responsibility in this collaboration is the production of cell therapy products. It has the expertise needed in clinical-level cell production and translation as well as relevant permits and facilities that enable the production of new cell therapy products classified as either ATMP (Advanced Therapy Medicinal Products) or tissue products. Cells are received either from the patient or a voluntary donor. Besides the cell therapy product aimed at treating severe graft-versus-host disease, the Blood Service has also produced new generation cell therapy products for individual patients to treat severe burn injuries.

Increasing strategic cooperation

According to Johanna Nystedt, Department Head of the Blood Service’s Advanced Cell Therapy Centre, it is crucial that the cooperation between researchers, clinicians, the health care and the pharmaceutical fields as well as authorities is improved, so that the new promising cell therapy innovations can be taken into use in the treatment of patients as rapidly and smoothly as possible.

- This is one step towards wider cooperation networks, Nystedt rejoices.

The cell therapy products generated by this cooperation are manufactured only for experimental treatment programs and clinical trials. Potential new cell therapies are assessed by a clinical expert group.

For more information, please contact:

Johanna Nystedt, Docent, Department Head, Advanced Cell Therapy Centre, the Finnish Red Cross Blood Service, tel. +358 (0)44 329 6491
Kim Vettenranta, Professor, University of Helsinki, HUS ja FRC Blood Service, tel. +358 (0)50 513 0984
Johanna Mattson, Director, HUS Cancer Centre, tel. +358 (0)50 427 9165