Valley Children's to offer advanced cancer therapies after $15M gift

An anonymous $15 million donation will enable Valley Children's Healthcare to establish an advanced cellular and gene therapy program, which the Madera, Calif.-based system said will eliminate the need to refer patients to Los Angeles hospitals for certain treatments. 

The gift will allow the hospital to stand up a bone marrow transplant and CAR-T cell therapy program, which hospital officials anticipate will take up to four years to establish and earn accreditation. 

"These therapies are some of the most powerful weapons we have in our cancer-fighting arsenal, but they also require a combination of medical expertise and specialized equipment to deliver effectively," Vinod Balasa, MD, medical director of Valley Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, said in a May 2 news release. "With this amazing donation, Valley Children's joins the ranks of the top children's hospitals in the nation that can offer these therapies, as well as be among the first to have access to future advances. This is a life-saving advancement for our patients."

Autologous bone marrow transplants have been used to treat certain forms of cancer in children for decades. CAR T-cell therapy involves genetically modifying patients' T-cells that allow the cells to recognize and destroy cancerous cells. In 2017, CAR T-cell treatment was approved to treat advanced B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Of the more than 2,000 kids who've since received the treatment, 60% were cancer free after five years. 

Prior to the donation, the hospital referred patients to facilities in Los Angeles or the Bay Area for the advanced treatments. The anonymous gift is among the largest single donations in the organization's 70-year history. 

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