The US approves first Ever “living drug” For Patient use
A new drug that turns the patient’s immune system against cancer cells has been approved by the FDA. The technology is called CAR-T and was launched by the company Novartis who will be marketing it under the name Kymriah at a price of $475,000. It treats a type of blood cancer known as acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Conventional therapies work for most patients with lymphoblastic leukemia, but CAR-T can be used if they fail.
It works by genetically reprogramming the patient’s white blood cells which are extracted from them. Once they have been reprogrammed to search and eliminate cancerous cells, they are injected back into the patient. This ensures that the treatment is tailor-made for each patient. As per the data submitted to FDA, 83% of the 63 patients who underwent the therapy were in complete remission within three months. However, due to the fast reproduction of the CAR-T cells, there are risks of the patient developing cytokine release syndrome. But this is controllable by the use of drugs.
CAR-T technology has applications beyond lymphoblastic leukemia. It can be modified to treat all kind of blood cancer, however, it hasn’t proven very effective against solid tumors. But the approval of first genetically modified therapy can open many doors for future research.