Chinese Dragon in CAR-T Cell Therapy ‘Miracle Remedy’ League


China based Innovative Cellular Therapeutics (ICT) joined the league of ‘miraculously successful’ clinical trials for cancer treatment by revolutionary CAR-T cell immunotherapy.

Huang He of The First Affiliated Hospital of Zhejiang University (academic partner of ICT) presented the performance report of autologous CAR-T therapy on 10 patients with relapsed or refractory (r/r) B lymphoblastic leukemia.

The CAR-T cell therapy involves extraction of healthy T-cells from the patient, engineering them with chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) and putting them back to the patient’s body therefore, enabling them to identify and kill tumor cells. Out of 10 patients whose few month lives were remaining, 9 developed almost (90%) complete remission. Among the patients, the first one was enrolled in June 2015 and the most recent one was a 17 years old girl in March 2016.

CAR-T mechanism

Figure 1. Schematic outline of CAR-T cell Therapy based treatment (Photo Credit: Jacobson and Ritz, 2011; Blood: 118 (18))

Encouraged by the latest results, ICT plans to perform trials for diverse clinical indications like r/r acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) as well as other lymphoma and tumors. It is ready to strike exciting deals in biopharma sector.

In the ‘miraculously successful’ league some groundbreaking results were displayed by Juno Therapeutics which works with Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle along with Seattle Children’s Research Institute and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

Juno’s CAR-T cell therapy is based on targeting CD19 which is a cell surface marker for lymphocytes present on most B cell malignancies.

Juno included among the 50 smartest companies 2015 by MIT Technology Review, exploited the smart CAR-T cell therapy and achieved sustained reduction in the symptoms of ALL, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) and other r/r B cell malignancies. 94% patients with ALL symptoms underwent complete remission.

CAR-T UCART19 LAYLA LEUKEMIA CELLECTISFrance based Cellectis along with Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), London treated one year old girl, Layla suffering from relapsed ALL for the first time with modified T-cells from donor called UCART19 (Universal Chimeric Antigene Receptor T-cells) cells successfully. Recently, another child diagnosed with very aggressive form of leukemia was given UCART19 therapy. Currently she is in monitoring phase but doing well.

Some top players in the CAR-T immunotherapy are Novartis working with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and University of Pennsylvania. Kite Pharma working with National Cancer Institute. Celgene working with Bluebird Bio Inc. and Baylor College of Medicine.

Still this therapy is given as a last resort to the patients and is not regulatory approved. Thereby, does not guarantee any sure shot success and it has a long way to march till it finally reaches market.

With the increasing examples of ‘miraculously successful’ cases the various risks associated with the technology cannot be denied. The clinical trials have been performed on a very small population and severe adverse events following patient’s death have also been reported in several cases. Various side effects like uncontrolled cytokine release syndrome also needs to be controlled. It seems the CAR-T immunotherapy has to fight a long clinical and regulatory battle to be proven as a revolutionary cancer treatment.

Featured image credit: Large Chinese Dragon In A Public Park © nikonlike (Stock Photo ID: 112333199)

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