Experimental Gene Therapy Making Strides Against Cancer

Over a third of patients receiving a new CAR-T cell therapy by Kite Pharma show no signs of cancer after 6 months

Immunotherapy is making rapid progress in treating cancer; offering new options for patients seeking cancer treatment. One of the branches of this field is CAR T cell therapy, which involves editing a patient's own immune cells to better target and annihilate cancer throughout the body. 

A promising trial

A new CAR T cell therapy developed at the National Cancer Institute and licensed to Kite Pharma in California has shown very encouraging results in a new trial. The study involved patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma who had run out of other options and would normally only survive around 6 months.  Following infusion of the therapy, 36% of patients showed no sign of cancer at a 6 month follow up, and 41% had their cancer shrink to at least half its original size. 

"The numbers are fantastic. These are heavily treated patients who have no other options. It's a safe treatment, certainly a lot safer than having progressive lymphoma"

A 62-year-old man with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, at left in December 2015, and three months after treatment with Kite Pharma's experimental gene therapy. Credit: The American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation and Kite. (ASBMT/Kite Pharma via AP)

These results are very exciting, despite 3 patients of 101 sadly dying of causes unrelated to the cancer itself. 13% also developed a dangerous immune reaction to the treatment while over a third developed anemia. However, these were patients with no remaining options and the treatment can therefore be seen as largely safe. Without this intervention, most of the patients would have died within the study period.

For now these therapies are highly expensive, but they are improving in safety and efficacy all the time and have already proved their merit against traditional cancer treatment options. We can therefore hope solutions like this are soon approved and enter the market for wider patient access. 

Read more at MedicalXpress