Explore TIL Therapy for Melanoma

About Tumor-Infiltrating Lymphocytes (TILs)

Everyone’s immune system contains white blood cells that circulate in the bloodstream and tissues, constantly on guard for cells that should not be there, such as cancer cells, to protect our bodies from infection.

When cancer develops and grows, tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) – or white blood cells that include lymphocytes (T-cells and B-cells), neutrophils, macrophages, eosinophils, basophils, and natural killer (NK) cells – recognize its presence. These TILs move from your bloodstream to where the solid tumor is located. Once there, the TILs circulate around the tumor, infiltrate it, and begin to attack the cancerous cells.

However, cancer has the ability to suppress the immune system, resulting in fewer effective TILs. Additionally, the immune system or signals from the tumor can interfere with the TILs' ability to kill cancer cells, as they weaken the immune response.

TIL therapy is intended to reinvigorate your tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes so they can effectively target the cancer.

TIL Therapy for Advanced Melanoma

Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer because it spreads beyond the skin more often than other cancers. Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) and targeted therapies have revolutionized the treatment of advanced melanoma. However, few options exist for patients whose disease has progressed despite these therapies. Because available treatments in this setting have limited effectiveness, there is a need for novel therapies.

TIL therapy, a type of cell-based immunotherapy, uses a patient’s own immune cells from the solid tumor to kill the tumor cells. A patient’s naturally occurring TILs are surgically collected from a portion of their tumor, grown outside the body using a manufacturing process, and then delivered back to the patient via infusion. Once inside the body, TIL therapy deploys billions of patient-specific TILs to recognize and target diverse cancer cells.

Why Mass General Cancer Center for TIL Therapy

Mass General Cancer Center is one of the first centers nationwide that offers FDA-approved Iovance TIL therapy (lifileucel) for patients with metastatic melanoma. Our collaborative approach ensures compassionate, individualized treatment for every patient.

Our multidisciplinary team includes:

  • Surgeons who are specially trained to extract a patient’s TILs, safely and effectively
  • Medical oncologists who are experts in treating advanced melanoma
  • A cell therapy team that is particularly crucial in the infusion stages, which are critical for successful outcomes of TIL therapy

To see if TIL therapy is right for you or to refer a patient, call 617-724-6862.

TIL therapy is complex, but our multidisciplinary team of dedicated specialists is uniquely positioned to deliver this treatment to patients in part because of our extensive involvement in the clinical trials that led to its approval by the FDA. While TIL therapy is not effective in all patients, I am excited to say that through those trials we have seen that patients who respond have the possibility of a durable remission, and I look forward to offering it to more patients in the future.

Donald Lawrence, MD
Clinical Director, Center for Melanoma

Improving Outcomes for Metastatic Melanoma

Mass General Cancer Center offers patients access to a wide variety of clinical trials of promising new therapies.

Learn more about clinical trials for melanoma.

Frequently Asked Questions About TIL Therapy

How do I make an appointment for TIL therapy?

Patients and referring providers can request an appointment by calling 617-724-6862.

What is Tumor-Infiltrating Lymphocyte (TIL) Therapy?

TIL therapy is a cellular immunotherapy that reinvigorates a patient's own TILs to help fight cancer. The TILs are extracted from a patient’s surgically removed tumor, multiplied in the lab, then reinfused back into the patient to kill cancer cells. TIL therapy is being used as a second line of treatment for patients with advanced melanoma.

Is TIL therapy the same as immunotherapy?

Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses the body’s immune system to find and attack cancer cells. Cellular immunotherapies, like TIL therapy and CAR T-cell therapy, use cells, rather than chemical compounds or molecules, to fight cancer. Other types of cellular immunotherapies include Engineered T Cell Receptor (TCR) Therapy and NK Cell Therapy.

How does TIL therapy work?

In TIL therapy, a sample of the patient’s tumor is surgically removed. Then, special immune cells called TILs are extracted from the tumor and multiplied in the lab to make them stronger. Next, the patient undergoes chemotherapy to prepare their body for the new immune cells. Finally, the enhanced TILs are infused into the patient’s body to attack the cancer cells, while leaving the healthy cells untouched. Generally, TIL therapy is only performed once.

How are TIL therapy and CAR T-cell therapy different?

During both TIL therapy and CAR T-cell therapy, a patient’s immune cells are collected. However, there are key differences between these two treatments: TILs are grown directly from the tumor, whereas CAR T cells are modified from normal T cells found in the bloodstream. Additionally, the TIL product has several different T-cell clones, which can attack various tumor antigens, while CAR T-cell therapy modifies normal T cells to attack a single antigen target on tumor cells.

What is lifileucel and is it FDA-approved?

Lifileucel by Iovance is an autologous, centrally manufactured tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte product (TIL) that was recently FDA approved. It is approved for use in metastatic melanoma patients who have progressed after one line of treatment (checkpoint inhibitors).

Am I eligible for TIL therapy?

Patients with metastatic melanoma who have progressed after one line of treatment (checkpoint inhibitors) are eligible to receive TIL therapy.

Where will I receive TIL therapy?

Patients receiving TIL therapy will be cared for by the dedicated Immune Effector Cell Therapy Service team and will receive their infusions at Mass General Cancer Center.

What are the benefits of TIL therapy?

While CAR T and other cell therapies so far have not been highly successful in treating patients with solid tumors, TIL therapy offers promising results. In addition, TILs effectively target cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed.

What are the side effects of TIL therapy?

The most common side effects are flu-like symptoms (body aches, fever, nasal congestion, cough), fatigue, diarrhea, and skin rash.

What are the success rates of TIL therapy?

Learn more about the efficacy of TIL therapy in advanced melanoma here.

Is TIL therapy covered by insurance?

Yes, TIL therapy is covered by insurance carriers, and our patient navigator will help guide you through the process.

Meet Our Team

  • Matthew Frigault, MD
    Clinical Director, Cellular Therapy Service
  • Donald Lawrence, MD
    Clinical Director, Center for Melanoma
  • Ryan Sullivan, MD
    Director, Center for Melanoma
  • Sara Cobb, RN, MSN
    Nurse Manager
  • Meaghan Ekstrom, MSN, FNP-BC
    Cellular Therapy Nurse Practitioner
  • Debbie Ahlers, RN
    Nurse Navigator
  • Farren Richardson, RN
    Nurse Navigator
  • Deirdre Smith, RN
    Nurse Navigator
  • Morgan DiCalogero, RN
    Practice RN
  • Leslie Carabello, RN
    Practice RN
  • Amy Mitchell, RN
    Practice RN
  • Kathleen Chivers, RN
    Practice RN
  • Susan Weigel, RN, MSN
    Nursing Practice Specialist
  • Elizabeth Medlinsky, RN, MSN
    Quality RN
  • Zack Benson
    Patient Navigator
  • Hayleigh Duggan
  • Nova Hodge, MSW, LICSW
    Oncology Social Worker

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