FDA has approved a new treatment for leukemia, called chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy. On short, CAR-T therapy. The new treatment has been in clinical trials for some years and the results were promising enough to make FDA approve it. CAR-T uses the patient’s own cells to fight cancer and is used on kids and young adults aged 3 to 25, who suffer from B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
How CAR-T therapy works
CAR-T therapy is a type of immunotherapy, which uses the patient’s own cells. First, doctors extract white cells from the patient. These T cells are re-programmed into CAR-T cells, which attack cancer cells. The CAR-T cells are inserted back into the patient’s body, where they search for the cancer cells and destroy them. This therapy was approved for kids with acute lumphoblastic leukemia, which is the most common type of blood cancer in kids.
CAR-T therapy has a number of benefits, because it uses the patient’s own cells and is a promising treatment for kids who are suffering from a relapse.
CAR-T therapy may save a lot of lives
When acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is relapsing, the patient has little options for a treatment. Until now, as CAR-T might be able to save kids with relapse ALL. By comparison with bone marrow transplant and chemotherapy, the other two treatments for ALL, CAR-T comes with the possibility of curing ALL, so no more relapses can take place. This is an amazing news for all the kids who suffer from ALL. Moreover, even if the procedure of using CAR-T therapy is painful, the recovery is easier and faster than it is with transplant or chemotherapy.
There are side effects
Unfortunately, there are no treatments without side effects, especially for cancer. CAR-T also has a number of side effects, which include flu-like symptoms, like high fever and respiratory distress. However, these symptoms can be controlled by the doctors, until they fade out. Long-term side effects are still unknown, but they need to be taken into account when the patient’s family thinks of trying CAR-T.
Not everyone can undergo CAR-T therapy
In order to be a good candidate for CAR-T therapy, you need to be rather healthy and have enough time. Some forms of ALL are so aggressive that patients don’t have the 2-3 weeks needed for the T-cells to be transformed into CAR-T cells. The T-cells need to be strong and healthy enough to be used by the scientists, so the patients needs to be as healthy as possible, despite having ALL.
CAR-T might be used to treat other forms of cancer in the future
CAR-T therapy has been approved only for ALL, but researchers are conducting clinical trials with this treatment on other types of cancer. For the moment, this new treatment provides an alternative for kids with ALL, but it might be used to treat other types of leukemia and even solid tumors, in the future.
However, for the moment, researchers are still looking at the long-term side effects of this new treatment. There might be years until researchers will be able to answers all the questions about how CAR-T works, but for the moment it might be the only option left for some kids.