Breakthrough treatment for tough to treat cancer now being used at Phoenix hospital

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It's a medical breakthrough that's being called truly "transformative" by a world-renowned cancer doctor here in Phoenix. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) It's a medical breakthrough that's being called truly "transformative" by a world-renowned cancer doctor here in Phoenix. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
It's called CAR-T cellular therapy and only one hospital in the entire state has been approved to perform the procedure on its patients. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) It's called CAR-T cellular therapy and only one hospital in the entire state has been approved to perform the procedure on its patients. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Right now, this therapy is being used on patients with relapsed or refractory acute lymphoblastic leukemia. (Source: AP Images) Right now, this therapy is being used on patients with relapsed or refractory acute lymphoblastic leukemia. (Source: AP Images)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

It's a medical breakthrough that's being called truly "transformative" by a world-renowned cancer doctor here in Phoenix.

It's called CAR-T cellular therapy and only one hospital in the entire state has been approved to perform the procedure on its patients.

Phoenix Children's Hospital is currently the only place in the state and one of only a few in the nation, where a person from newborn to their mid-20s can receive this treatment if chemotherapy has failed after a couple of attempts.

Right now, this therapy is being used on patients with relapsed or refractory acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

[LINK: Read more about Phoenix Children's Hospital CAR-T Therapy Program]

[CHECKLIST: How doctors can refer someone to Phoenix Children's Hospital CAR-T Therapy Program]

How it works is truly incredible.

A patient is hooked up to this dialysis-like machine and the t-cells are extracted from the blood.

From there, the cells are shipped to a lab in New Jersey, where they are genetically modified, then frozen, then shipped back to children's hospital, thawed out and reinserted back into the patient as CAR-T cells.

That's when they can begin targeting the cancer cells and destroying them.

What's so remarkable is that the modified CAR-T cells, for the most part, target only the cancer cells and not the healthy cells, unlike chemotherapy.

Dr. Roberta Adams with Phoenix Children's Hospital hopes this cellular therapy will one day replace chemotherapy altogether.

[SPECIAL SECTION: CBS 5 This Morning]

"Chemotherapy is critical for curing many, many people, but when cancer proves itself to be resistant to that chemotherapy or responds but then recurs, then our ability to use targeted therapy has been very exciting," said Dr. Adams.

The process of modifying the cells takes about 4 weeks, and there can be some side effects once they're re-introduced, like high fever and viral infections, but they can be managed.

Dr. Adams says scientists working on this groundbreaking treatment are also developing treatments like this for other types of cancer.

In the next 6 months or so, Dr. Adams says this cellular therapy will be moving into other Valley hospitals and available for adult patients with leukemia and lymphoma.

If this is you, Dr. Adams says to ask your physician about the CAR-T cellular therapy and they should know all about it, and whether this is something you would qualify for and benefit from.

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