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Dr. James Essell, Medical Director of the 3CTC at The Jewish Hospital with a patient.

Featured Article

Exploring New Paths to Healing

The Jewish Hospital – Mercy Health Cincinnati Cancer and Cellular Therapy Center provides groundbreaking CAR-T immunotherapy.

Promising new possibilities have emerged in cancer treatment in recent years, providing new hope and opportunities for healing. Choosing the best next steps requires both a caring and supportive medical team and access to the best treatments available. 

At The Jewish Hospital – Mercy Health Cincinnati Cancer and Cellular Therapy Center (3CTC), choosing and pursuing cancer treatment is personalized. Staff align the treatment plans toward protecting the patient and improving outcomes at every step. 

Diane Shapiro, RN and Transplant Coordinator, has worked with The Jewish Hospital Cancer Center for more than 27 years. She states,“I love the team approach we have. It’s not just the doctor, we have an amazing group that includes nurses, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, a dietitian, a social worker and a psychologist. It truly takes a village for a successful outcome for the patients and family.”

In 2017, the first chimeric antigen receptor t-cell immunotherapy drugs (CAR-T) were approved.

Dr. James Essell, Medical Director of the 3CTC at The Jewish Hospital, says, “As soon as we heard about CAR-T, even when it was still in clinical trials, we thought it was important for our patients to have access to this potentially life-saving therapy. We’re the first in the region to have this for adults.”

What Is CAR-T Therapy?

The first CAR T-cell immunotherapy was approved as a treatment for leukemia in 2017, and since then, CAR-T protocols have been approved for some types of lymphoma and multiple myeloma. 

CAR-T begins with collecting lymphocyte cells called T-cells from the patient. These cells are genetically modified in a lab to specifically attack the cancer. The cells are grown in the lab, and they are then infused back into the patient’s blood. The modified T-cells attach to the malignant cancer cells and kill them. The CAR-T continues to multiply and expand in the body to fight the cancer. For more details visit

Who Receives CAR-T and How Does it Help?

Dr. Essell explains that CAR-T is a targeted form of cancer treatment called cellular therapy, which helps the body to attack cancer itself, rather than having chemotherapy or radiation doing the primary cancer-fighting work.

CAR-T immunotherapy is currently only considered in candidates whose cancer has not gone into remission during two or more previous chemotherapy attempts. Many of these patients would have previously had few, if any, options for continuing treatment effectively. 

While research is ongoing, at least one study shows more than a third of cancer cases going into long-term remission after the treatment. Dr. Essell has reason to believe that cured patient percentages will rise even further due to continued innovation in the world of cellular therapy. 

The Future of CAR-T

Multiple CAR-T therapies have been approved by the FDA and the early successes have prompted many new trials to provide CAR-T for other cancer types, since each treatment is specific to the particular kind of cancer. 

3CTC is part of ongoing innovation in cancer care. They are opening a new patient infusion center in April 2022 that will allow them to expand their capacity and do even more in the fight against highly resistant cancers. 

A Network of Care

Gordon Massa, a Mason resident and CAR-T patient at 3CTC, has brought his unshakable faith with him during a difficult lymphoma journey. Even on his hardest days, 3CTC staff and patients have drawn inspiration from his powerful spirituality and encouragement of others.

After multiple chemotherapy rounds were not successful, Gordon was referred by his local oncologist to the team at The Jewish Hospital. Through the intake and evaluation process, he became a candidate for CAR-T treatment.

While a challenge of CAR-T can be its potential side effects, necessitating consistent monitoring and care, the medical team and Gordon’s family created a network of care around him for those crucial first few weeks.

“Our family and our village wanted to help any way they could and they were happy to do it, so we were very grateful. Getting this treatment only 15-20 minutes away from home made this possible,” says Gordon. “Everyone has been helpful through this process. Diane’s attitude was positive and encouraging, and she calmed the waters several times.”

Lianne Massa, Gordon’s wife and caregiver during CAR-T treatment, adds, “All the nurses and doctors have been amazing, they all bring something to the table.”

At his 60 day PET/CT scans, Gordon’s cancer was found to be in remission.

Gordon and other patients like him know that having teammates on your side during tough times is essential for persevering and trusting the treatment process. At the Cincinnati Cancer and Cellular Therapy Center, they’re in good hands.

The Jewish Hospital – Mercy Health 

Cincinnati Cancer and Cellular Therapy Center 

4777 East Galbraith Road, Third Floor, Cincinnati

513.686.3000 |

  • Renderings by Champlin Architecture of the new patient infusion center.
  • Dr. James Essell, Medical Director of the 3CTC at The Jewish Hospital with a patient.
  • Gordon Massa with Dr. Essell.
  • Diane Shapiro, RN and Transplant Coordinator, far right.