Wesley Family donates $10 million to University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center
September 27, 2020
Gift establishes groundbreaking immunotherapy center
In honor of a transformational $10 million gift from Kimberly and Joseph Wesley, University Hospitals is establishing the Wesley Center for Immunotherapy at UH Seidman Cancer Center. This generous gift will further enable physician-scientists to engage in groundbreaking research and bring new, life-extending immunotherapy treatments to patients. One such patient is Joseph Wesley himself, who has been a patient at Seidman Cancer Center for many years.
“When a cancerous growth larger than a half dollar appeared on my cheek, I immediately went to Dr. Ted Teknos. Surgery and other traditional treatments weren’t options for me, so we turned to immunotherapy,” shared Joe Wesley. “Today, the growth is smaller than a dime and I will continue until I’m cancer-free. My team of doctors and nurses at UH have been tremendously helpful through the entire process. Kim and I chose to make this gift because we’re firm believers in the power of immunotherapy and want others to benefit from this leading edge innovation.”
Immunotherapy is the process of empowering a patient’s own immune system to identify and attack cancer cells. Clinical trials have shown increased rates of remission and survival as well as decreased side effects compared to conventional chemotherapy.
“Immunotherapy is an increasingly frequent component of cancer care and UH is uniquely positioned to offer it,” said Thomas F. Zenty III, UH Chief Executive Officer. “This extraordinary gift from the Wesleys will help ensure UH is able to increase our capacity to treat patients with new therapies.”
UH currently has 61 immunotherapy trials open, including 17 immunotherapy-centered clinical trials originating from the UH cell therapy facility which generates CAR-T, NK cell and other cell based therapies. In addition, UH experts are creating cells for treatment in just eight days, down from an average of 12-30 days in commercially available CAR-T trials. This innovation allows UH Seidman Cancer Center physicians to deliver therapy in a timely manner and to more patients than would otherwise be possible.
“Of the 22 patients who have completed immunotherapy trials by receiving UH generated CAR-T cells, there’s been an overall response rate of 85 percent and a 70 percent rate of complete remission,” said Ted Teknos, MD, President and Chief Scientific Officer of UH Seidman Cancer Center, and Clinical Professor of Otolaryngology, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. “UH is one of less than a dozen academic medical centers to have successfully manufactured CAR-T cells for human use, and is the cornerstone of the nation’s only National Center for Regenerative Medicine.”
Cancer will replace heart disease as the leading cause of death in the United States in 2020 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the total number of cancer cases will nearly double by 2040. UH is poised, through its leading laboratory capabilities, strong clinical trial portfolio and track record of success, to lead the way in addressing these challenges.