CAR-T Cell Therapy: Poised to Revolutionize the Cancer Treatment Paradigm

By July 21, 2017Blog Posts, Pharma Beat

Cancer has traditionally been treated with surgery, harsh chemotherapy and radiation. The emergence of targeted biologic therapies has set a new standard for treatment in terms of safety and efficacy; however, much more could be done in the battle against cancer. Immunotherapy with chimeric antigen receptor T-cells (CAR-T cells) could be the next revolution in cancer treatment.

Immunotherapy is personalized and uses the patient’s own immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells. In CAR-T cell therapy, T-cells are collected from the patient’s blood and genetically engineered to express CAR proteins which help T-cells specifically bind a target antigen (e.g. CD19 or CD20) on the surface of cancer cells. The engineered T-cell population is expanded in a laboratory then infused back into the patient where the cells use the body’s natural systems to multiply, identify and attack cancer cells.

CAR-T cell therapy has shown promising results in B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL), B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia and Hodgkin’s lymphoma with complete remission rates of up to 94%. However, there are challenges that need to be overcome before CAR-T cell therapy can shift the cancer treatment paradigm, including antigen loss relapse, on-target/off-tumour toxicity, less efficacy in solid tumours and difficulty of industrialization. Despite these limitations, companies including Novartis, Juno and Kite Pharma are developing CAR-T cell therapies and we could see the first FDA-approved CAR-T cell therapy by the end of this year.