Despite the many advances in medicine over the last century, a cure for one of the most prevalent and devastating diseases in the world today continues to evade us. But thanks to new research, that could soon change.
The gene therapy transforms a patient’s own blood cells into cancer killers but yielded extraordinary results in a major study, Daily Mail reported. The cancer cells of the 82 percent patients shrunk at least by 50 percent.
California-based Kite Pharma, which is the gene therapy’s sponsor, is competing with Novartis AG to become an initial winner of the treatment approval. In the U.S., it is called CAR-T cell therapy; which might become the nation’s first certified gene therapy.
In the complete reduction of cancer cells within six months, only 36 percent showed a change from partial results issued after three months. This indicates a hopeful sign of the gene therapy that this one-time treatment could provide long-lasting benefits for patients who respond well.
“This seems extraordinary … extremely encouraging,” Dr. Roy Herbst, cancer medicines chief at the Yale Cancer Center and an independent expert said. The concern now is how long Kite’s treatment would last and its side effects but appear manageable in the study.
A follow-up after six months is still required to monitor if the gene therapy’s benefit declines. “This certainly is something I would want to have available,” Dr. Herbst added.
The gene therapy is not without risk, WSBT-TV reported. In fact, three of the 101 patients from the study died because of an unrelated condition that worsens their cancer state. In addition, two of the deaths were believed to be caused by the treatment.
The study was developed at the government’s National Cancer Institute and then licensed to Kite. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society provided an assistance fund to the study.
Results were presented by the company and were not published or reviewed by other experts. Full results will be introduced at the American Association for Cancer Research conference in April. The company is to request an approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration late this March in Europe.
The gene therapy incorporates filtering of a patient’s blood harvesting key immune system soldiers called T-cells. The process modifies these cells in the lab fusing it with a gene that targets cancer and returns them back intravenously. The doctors called it a living drug because it permanently changed cells multiplied within the body turning it to an army combating the cancer cells.