A treatment has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which works at redesigning a patient’s immune system to allow it to attack cancer cells in the body.
The FDA mentioned that its decision was a “historic” moment and that medicine was “entering a new frontier”. “Living Drug” Therapy by Novartis is estimated to cost $475,000 (£367,000) which leaves 83 percent of the people free from a particular type of blood cancer. Doctors from the UK mentioned that such announcement was an exciting step forward.
Comparisons with Conventional Therapies
Unlike the existing Conventional Therapies like Surgery or Chemotherapy, the living drug is tailor made as per each patient’s requirement. This living drug also known as CAR-T is made by extracting white blood cells from the blood of the patient. Following this, the cells are genetically reprogrammemed to find out and kill the cancer. When put back inside the patient, the cancer killers find their target and they start multiplying.
Dr. Scott Gottlieb from FDA mentioned that ability to reprogramme a patient’s own cells to attack a deadly cancer has resulted in moving towards new frontier in medical innovation. Latest and advanced technologies like gene and cell therapies has the potential to transform medicine and help in enhancing the capacity to treat and even cure many of the intractable illnesses. The therapy will be marketed as “Kymriah” which works against acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.
Many of the patients respond to normal therapy and when such treatments fail, Kymriah has been approved for. The new approach was very exciting according to Dr. Stephan Grupp, who treated first child with CAR-T in Philadelphia. He also said that they had never seen any such treatment before. One of the first patient even after nearing death, had managed to live cancer free for more than five years. Out of 63 patients who were treated with CAR-T, 83 percent of the people were in complete remission within three months and long term data is still being gathered.
The therapy comes with its own limitations and risks. It can result in potentially life-threatening cytokine release syndrome caused by rapid proliferation of the CAR-T cells within the body. Use of drugs can help to control this. The potential of CAR-T technology goes beyond just one type of cancer. Dr David Maloney from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center said that the decision taken by FDA was a milestone and that soon many such immunotherapy-based treatments will be discovered to treat different type of cancers. Although CAR-T technology has struggled against “solid tumours’ however it proves promising for treating blood based cancers. According to Dr Prakash Satwan from Columbia University Medical, the results were not great on a relative scale with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia but he was hopeful that the technology would get better in the future.
Modern cancer treatment includes boosting of the immune system and many around the world have already adopted a variety of drugs to help in attacking cancer more freely. CAR-T technology is a step forward but still in its nascent stage.
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