A new immunotherapy developed in Israel has been announced to be around 90 percent effective at putting patients with multiple myeloma into complete remission, offering hope for people with a currently incurable disease.
The innovative therapy is already used in other cancers where possible. It involves reprogramming the patient’s immune cells to recognize and attack their tumor cells and is recognized as one of our best shots at treating aggressive cancers.
The ongoing Phase 1 clinical trial has been producing incredible results over the last few months and the latest results have been outlined by local news outlet the Jerusalem Post, which reports that over 90 percent of the 74 patients treated with the therapy entered complete remission.
Previous results showed that in a smaller cohort of 20 patients with advanced multiple myeloma, 85 percent of patients responded to the treatment and 71 percent had a complete response, eradicating any signs of the disease from the body.
In the previous study, the treatment boosted patient survival by an average of 308 days, but six patients had no sign of disease progression by the time the data recording was stopped around a year and a half later.
Chimeric Antigen Receptor Cell Therapy (CAR-T) is an extremely promising line of immunotherapy against many different cancers, due to its individualized approach. It takes place over a number of weeks and involves a blood sample from the patient being genetically modified, with a receptor that recognizes cancer cells added to their T cells, which are part of the immune system. From here, the newly engineered cells are put back into the patient, and it is hoped they will aid the immune system in destroying any tumors, along with protecting against future relapse.
It sounds ideal, and it is, except for one fatal flaw – all that cutting-edge lab work for a single person comes at a high cost. Currently in the US, a single CAR-T therapy can cost anywhere from $500,000-$1,000,000 depending on the cancer, making it difficult to both research and bring to market. It is also tough to expand to the mass market, as each cancer needs to be analyzed and engineered for specifically.
Still, despite the intense costs, the researchers state there is no shortage of people looking to be treated.
“We have a waiting list of more than 200 patients from Israel and various parts of the world at any given time,” said Professor Polina Stepansky, of Hadassah-University Medical Center, in a statement to the Jerusalem Post.
“Due to the complexity of the production and the complexity of the treatment itself, only one patient a week enters the treatment, which is still being conducted as an experiment.”