UW Program launches first US cell-therapy trial for kidney transplant patients

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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV)-- A research team will be testing a personalized cell therapy treatment for kidney transplant patients.

The UW Program for Advanced Cell Therapy (PACT) will use the treatment to study its effects on a viral infection faced by around 30-40% of kidney and/or pancreas transplant recipients.

The study will use virus-specific white blood cells to treat severe cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection after kidney transplantation.

UW Health is the largest kidney and pancreas transplant program in the state, performing a majority of Wisconsin’s kidney and kidney-pancreas combined transplants with 315 in 2018.

The Federal Drug Administration-approved trial will begin enrolling 20 adult kidney-transplant recipients, according to Dr. Arjang Djamali, professor of medicine and surgery at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, and UW Health nephrology division chief.

“The profile of our program will allow ample trial participants,” Djamali said. “We look forward to discovering if this innovative treatment strategy is safe and effective for this unmet need.”

Nearly one in three children is infected with CMV by age 5, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It can cause fever, sore throat, fatigue, and swollen glands. For people with stable immune systems, the virus is usually kept in check and doesn't cause symptoms. For transplant patients, their immune system is suppressed and an infection could be fatal.

According to Dr. Jacques Galipeau, PACT director, these factors make PACT’s new approach a potentially safe, effective treatment to stop this virus.

“Our vision is to bring to Wisconsin the best cutting-edge cellular technologies available worldwide, and develop our own, as well to treat catastrophic health problems for which no cure exists,” said Galipeau.