Overcoming Challenges in Cell & Gene Therapy Trials Part 1

Explore Cell Therapy podcast season 2, episode 6 

This two-part “Explore Cell Therapy” podcast episode features a panel discussion from Advanced Therapies Week 2023, a conference focused on advancing cell and gene therapy. In a session sponsored by Be The Match BioTherapies® and moderated by Chris McClain, MBA, Heather Stefanski, MD, PhD, Erin Leckrone, and Gabbi Giammarino discuss the current state of the cell and gene therapy industry to ramp up clinical trials and expand access to care.

Listen as they examine what’s currently happening in the industry, the biggest challenges facing clinical trial design and management, and what to look for in a research partner to ensure trial success and advance patient outcomes. You’ll gain insights into the future of cell and gene therapies and the role both hematology/oncology practices and transplant centers play in advancing clinical trials and access to these emerging treatments.

5 key takeaways from Overcoming Challenges in Cell & Gene Therapy Trials Part 1

  1. Study design must be implementable and reasonable for patients, as well as for the hematology/oncology practices or transplant centers where enrollment is taking place. This means considering what is being measured against what the trial goals are and thinking strategically about how to best alleviate site and patient burden.
  2. Choosing the right sites and the right patients for cell and gene therapy trials is critical to the success of the trial and patient safety. While the long-term goal is for CAR-T and other therapies to move to community practices and outpatient settings, centers with the ability to manage acute toxicities are necessary, in addition to targeting patients with a low probability of suffering from toxicity. 
  3. Slow recruitment, enrollment, and lack of diversity in clinical trials is an ongoing problem in the field. Strong relationships between enrollment sites and research sponsors, open communication, and mindful protocol design can all help recruitment go more smoothly.

This episode’s expert guests 

Heather Stefanski MD PhD

Heather Stefanski, MD, PhD

Vice President, Medical Services

National Marrow Donor Program® (NMDP)/Be The Match®

Dr. Stefanski joined NMDP/Be The Match in May, 2021 as Vice President, Medical Services. Prior to her arrival, Dr. Stefanski was an associate professor of pediatrics and transplant physician at the University of Minnesota and was actively involved in clinical care and research for children with life-threatening blood and immune system disorders. One of her areas of focus is the use of cord blood units in stem cell transplants and other cellular therapy. She is board certified in both pediatrics and pediatric hematology-oncology. 

Erin Leckrone MBA

Erin Leckrone, MBA

Senior Director, Clinical Trials

NMDP/Be The Match

CIBMTR® (Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research®)

Erin Leckrone is the Senior Director of Clinical Trials at NMDP/Be The Match. She manages of the activities of the CIBMTR CRO Services, including the Survey Research Group, and oversees the administration of the Clinical Trials Advisory Committee. Prior to joining Be The Match, she spent almost 14 years at Boston Scientific in Clinical Operations and served 8 years as a Medic in the Army National Guard.

Gabbi Giammarino BS

Gabbi Giammarino, BS 

Blood and Marrow Transplant Clinical Research Coordinator

Moffitt Cancer Center

Gabbi Giammarino is a graduate from the University of South Florida with a degree in Biological Health Science. She is currently working as a Blood and Marrow Transplant Clinical Research Coordinator with experience in both adult and pediatric patient populations. Over the previous 2 years she has worked on various trial designs and phases with concentrations on not only on transplant itself, but the secondary complications such as GVHD as well.

Chris McClain MBA (moderator)

Chris McClain, MBA (moderator)

Senior Vice President, Sales and Business Development

Be The Match BioTherapies

Chris McClain is the Senior Vice President of Sales and Business Development for Be The Match BioTherapies. His team engages with cell and gene therapy companies developing innovative, life-saving therapies that can leverage the cell sourcing, cell therapy supply chain, research support and outcomes tracking capabilities of the NMDP/Be The Match. Before joining Be The Match BioTherapies, Chris was co-Founder of Nora Therapeutics, Inc., a venture-backed biopharmaceutical company developing novel therapies in areas of significant unmet medical need in reproductive health. 

Access all “Explore Cell Therapy” episodes 

Listen to “Explore Cell Therapy” on Spotify

Read articles or access trials discussed in this episode 

  1. Umbilical Cord Blood Transplantation in Children with Acute Leukemia: Impact of Conditioning on Transplantation Outcomes (Biology of Blood and Marrow Transplantation, 2017
  2. Allogeneic BCMA-targeting CAR T cells in relapsed/refractory multiple myeloma: phase 1 UNIVERSAL trial interim results (Nature Medicine, 2023
  3. Unrelated Donor Transplant Versus Immune Therapy in Pediatric Severe Aplastic Anemia (ClinicalTrials.gov, 2022
  4. Racial and ethnic diversity on Blood and Marrow Transplant Clinical Trials Network (BMT CTN) trials – We can do better (Transplantation and Cellular Therapy, 2022)

Access resources for physicians 

Be The Match BioTherapies

Explore Be The Match BioTherapies, dedicated to accelerating cell and gene therapy development and optimizing cell collection, donor identification, and supply chain management.

HCT Consultation Timing Guidelines

The HCT consultation timing guidelines from the NMDP/Be The Match and ASTCT identify appropriate referral timing for allogeneic or autologous HCT based on a patient’s disease characteristics

Transplant Center Directory for hematology/oncology physician

This searchable database provides details on the transplant centers in the NMDP/Be The Match Network, such as center contact information, number of transplants by cell source, patient survival information and more.

Evolution of HCT Self-Paced Learning Course

This five-part self-paced learning course will help you better understand the current state of the science for HCT and cell therapy by following the evolution of HCT and addressing common misconceptions. Part 2: Eligibility in Transplant contains a section specific to CAR-T therapies.

Explore resources for your patients 

Be The Match Jason Carter Clinical Trials Search and Support Program

The Clinical Trials Search and Support Program helps patients find and join clinical trials through one-on-one support, an easy-to-navigate website, and financial assistance to help patients pay for travel costs to participate in a clinical trial.

Be The Match Patient Support Center

The Be The Match Patient Support Center provides support, information and resources for transplant patients, caregivers and families. All our programs and resources are free.