MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas is one of the largest in the world for stem cell transplants, performing more than 865 procedures for adults and children each year, more than any other centre in the USA.
The apheresis and stem cell collection unit is also one of the most active facilities in the world, performing over 1,000 blood stem cell collections annually.
The department of Stem Cell Transplantation and Cellular Therapy (SCT/CT) is a specialised unit for processing of autologous, allogeneic related and unrelated stem cells collected from peripheral blood, bone marrow and cord blood.
The Cell Therapy Laboratory (CTL) at MD Anderson have had a number of Planer freezers over the years, supplied by Rod Harnden of SRS, and they currently use six - which are all in constant daily use and of which some have seen nearly ten years active service!
The CTL Core Lab averages about 7-9 stem cell cryopreservation procedures per day and so frequently each CRF is used more than once per day. Their record number of collections for cryopreservation in a given day was 17. Each cryopreservation procedure performed in the CRF requires a mock bag that is prepared with the same DMSO concentration as the cell products being cryopreserved. In addition to all the activity produced by the Core Lab the CRFs also get activity from the work done in the Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) laboratory. The work done in the GMP lab includes freezing of cells such as mesenchymal stem cells and antigen-presenting cells for cell banks, manufacturing and cryopreservation of various therapeutic vaccines for ongoing protocols and other manipulated and cultured cell types like natural killer cells.
The centre uses four freezing profiles in their programmable CRFs which are based on general cell type, the container and volume being cryopreserved - 5 ml vials, 250 ml blood bags and 750ml blood bags. These profiles, some five ramps and some six, are preprogrammed and allocated to specific samples. These samples are predominantly hematopoietic stem cells originating from peripheral blood or bone marrow collections which are later thawed and given to patients undergoing treatment for cancer of the blood or immune system. Other samples include, but are not limited to, tumor specific therapeutic vaccines using carrier proteins and T cells manipulated to produce chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) which are aimed at helping a patient’s own immune system kill cancer cells.
The CTL operates under the direction of Ian McNiece, PhD as Technical Director and Elizabeth J. Shpall, MD as Medical Director and Sarah Olchesky as supervisor of the CTL Core Lab.