UChicago Medicine among the first in the country to offer tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte (TIL) therapy for advanced melanoma

Graphic illustration of lymphocytes, which look like purple blobs with rough dotted surfaces

The University of Chicago Medicine is among the first 30 institutions in the country to offer tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte (TIL) therapy for advanced melanoma, immediately activating as an authorized treatment center after federal regulators approved the treatment on February 16, 2024.

TILs are immune cells that can “recognize” and successfully invade tumors to attack malignant cancer cells from inside the tumor mass. In cases where cancer successfully proliferates, the body’s innate population of TIL cells is not strong enough to destroy tumors.

During TIL treatment, physicians remove a small piece of a patient’s tumor and extract TILs from it. Scientists can then multiply those TILs in the laboratory, growing billions more to be reinfused into the patient in an “activated” state so they can seek out and attack tumors more powerfully than before.

Some patients with advanced melanomas — those that can’t be surgically removed or have spread to other parts of the body — don’t respond to standard treatment options such as immunotherapies and targeted therapies. TIL therapy gives these patients another therapeutic option: a completely personalized treatment made from the patient’s own cells that needs to be administered only once, since the cells remain in the body and keep performing their tumor-attacking duties.

Other cell therapies, such as CAR T-cell therapies, are currently approved only for blood cancers like leukemia. TIL therapy, which showed promising results in clinical trials, is the first FDA-approved cell therapy to treat solid tumors.

UChicago Medicine is helping lead continuing research into TILs even while offering the newly approved therapy to patients. Medical oncologists and scientists at the David and Etta Jonas Center for Cellular Therapy are currently studying TIL therapy for cervical cancer in a clinical trial, with plans to study TILs for even more tumor types in the future.

Medical oncologist Sonali Smith, MD, and lymphoma patient Clayton Harris

UChicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center

UChicago Medicine is designated as a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute, the most prestigious recognition possible for a cancer institution. We have more than 200 physicians and scientists dedicated to defeating cancer.

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