UAMS Offering Revolutionary CAR T-Cell Therapy for Myeloma Patients

By Linda Haymes

UAMS is the first and only medical facility in Arkansas approved to provide cellular therapy to myeloma patients.

“This is exciting because this is the first cellular therapy product commercially available for myeloma patients,” said Myeloma Center clinical director Frits van Rhee, M.D. Ph.D.

Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy uses new technology to genetically modify a patient’s own immune cells (T-cells), enabling them to find and destroy cancer cells. T cells are a type of white blood cell integral to the immune system. The CAR T-cell immunotherapy, also known as ABECMA, arrived at the Myeloma Center this month.

ABECMA, approved by the Federal Drug Administration in late March, collects and genetically modifies the patient’s own T-cells by introducing an antibody fragment that specifically recognizes myeloma cells. ABECMA recognize a protein called B-cell maturation antigen (BCMA) present on the surface of myeloma cells. The CAR T-cells rapidly expand after infusion and kill myeloma cells.

“This offers an entirely new treatment option for relapsed myeloma patients,” van Rhee said. “It is a whole new class of treatment; it’s like immunotherapy is coming of age.”

The CAR T-cell therapy is presently only approved for myeloma patients who have had multiple relapses or do not respond to any of the standard myeloma drugs.

“The exciting thing with this drug is that it gets high response rates,” said van Rhee, citing one trial that enrolled 128 patients who had already received at least three therapies, and 94 of the patients responded to the treatment. “That’s 73% success rate, which is very encouraging, and serious side effects occur in less than 10% of patients.”

The staff of the Myeloma Center have undergone training to recognize and manage any adverse reactions in compliance with the ABECMA Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) program managed by the Federal Drug Administration. As a site-certified facility, the Myeloma Center adheres to strict regulations and undergoes regular audits, including Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies (REMS) audits.

UAMS is the state’s only health sciences university, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a hospital; a main campus in Little Rock; a Northwest Arkansas regional campus in Fayetteville; a statewide network of regional campuses; and eight institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Psychiatric Research Institute, Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging, Translational Research Institute, Institute for Digital Health & Innovation and the Institute for Community Health Innovation. UAMS includes UAMS Health, a statewide health system that encompasses all of UAMS’ clinical enterprise. UAMS is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has 3,275 students, 890 medical residents and fellows, and five dental residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 12,000 employees, including 1,200 physicians who provide care to patients at UAMS, its regional campuses, Arkansas Children’s, the VA Medical Center and Baptist Health. Visit or Find us on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), YouTube or Instagram.