Up until recently, there have been four pillars of cancer treatment: Surgery; Chemotherapy; Radiation; and Targeted Therapy. Immunotherapy—where you enlist and strengthen the power of a patient’s immune system to attack tumors—is now cementing itself as the “fifth pillar”. Adoptive cell therapy (ACT) is quickly distinguishing itself as an immunotherapy approach to cancer treatment, and one ACT immunotherapy in particular—chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy—is standing out the most.
What is CAR T-cell Therapy?
CAR T-cell therapy is an immunotherapy that has captured the imagination of researchers and the public alike. It has done this because of responses CAR T-cell therapies have produced in patients whose cancer treatments had stopped
- CAR T-cell therapy is an ACT immunotherapy approach where a patient’s own immune cells are collected and used to treat their cancer
- CAR T-cell therapy involves drawing blood from a patient and separating out the T cells (white blood cells that play a key role in how the immune system fights cancer)
- The T cells are modified in a lab to intensify the immune system’s natural response to cancer
- The T Cells are then re-injected into the patient
Studies are Backing Up CAR T-cell Therapy
In a 2017 global clinical trial, Kymriah—the first FDA-approved CAR T-cell therapy for adults with certain types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma—demonstrated long-lasting remissions in non-Hodgkin lymphoma patients. For the global study, 40 percent of patients with relapsed/refractory diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) who received Kymriah had a partial or complete remission at three months. About 74 percent of patients who responded remained cancer-free at six months. According to Penn Medicine News, DLBC is diagnosed in 56,000 patients per year in the United States, and is the most common form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.