The CIRM Alpha Stem Cell Clinic (ASCC) was created at City of Hope in March 2015 with the goal of enabling researchers to bring stem cell treatments to fruition. The clinic currently supports 27 active clinical trials of stem cell-based therapies, including:
• Transplants of blood stem cells that have been genetically modified to treat patients with either AIDS or with AIDS-related lymphoma
• Use of neural stem cells to deliver drugs directly to cancers hiding in the brain
• T cell immunotherapy trials to treat patients with hematological or solid tumor cancers
• Correction of hemophilia by genetic editing of liver stem cells
• Use of selected and expanded T cells to attack cancer stem cells and treat cancer
The City of Hope ASCC is implemented in a dedicated outpatient clinic in the City of Hope Day Hospital. In this setting, the novel research treatments are being done by clinical nurses rather than by research nurses working in a separate clinical research unit, as is normally done. We coined this new concept as “hybrid nurse.” In addition, we now have a nurse educator, who is directly involved in teaching of patients, families, and the ASCC staff. Together with the Patient Care Coordinator, the nurse educator develops the materials necessary to educate the “hybrid nurses” in understanding research protocols and research procedures within their area of expertise, while continuing to expand the various nursing capabilities. The set-up of our clinic enables evaluation of innovative stem cell-based therapies, and allows such treatments to be evaluated in the actual site where, if successful, they will become standard-of-care. Furthermore, to support the increasing numbers of clinical trials in the area of stem-cell based therapy, the City of Hope ASCC team has grown in the third year of funding, and now includes nursing staff, a patient care coordinator, a nurse educator, study coordinators, regulatory staff, and other personnel.
Thus, the COH ASCC is an experiment in itself, as it tests whether this hybrid research unit, in which a nurse must have research and clinical skills, is the best approach to introduction of new stem cell treatments to the clinic. In 2017, we organized the 2nd CIRM ASCC Network Annual Symposium that raised awareness about Alpha Clinics and brought together stakeholders to review the delivery of stem cell-based therapies for conditions with unmet medical needs.
CIRM funding has made it possible to bring clinical and research staff together, and in this way to accelerate development of stem cell research.