Immune System Therapy Shows Wider Promise Against Cancer

Atan American Association for Cancer Research conference in Atlanta on Sunday, March 31, 2019, CAR-T therapy was discussed as the treatment that can help the immune system fight deadly blood cancers. Discussions also covered CAR-T therapy as showing early signs that it could be used against solid tumors giving scientists the hope that this approach could be used against more common cancers.

CAR-T therapy involves genetically modifying some of a patient’s own cells in order to help their body recognize and attack cancer cells.  One patient, Richard Carlstrand of Long Key, Florida,gave witness to the fact that he had the CAR-T therapy treatment over a year ago for mesothelioma which is a very aggressive cancer found in the lining of the lungs.

At the time, Carlstrand said, he and his team of doctors were embarking on unknown territory in trying the CAR-T therapy, but he is happy to say that he now shows no signs of cancer. His case and others were discussed at the conference last Sunday.

Back in 2017 the first CAR-T therapies were approved for some leukemias and lymphomas. Scientists did some alterations in the lab and the modified immune system cells were returned to the patient through an IV which puts them in the blood right where the cancer is.

But researchers found that if the cells have to travel far through the bloodstream to get to tumors in the lung, breast, colon, or other places,that approach doesn’t work as well.

Protein is found in both solid tumor cells as well as in normal cells at lower levels and so this presented a bigger worry that the CAR-T therapy  would harm the normal cells too.

So to solve this problem, the modified cells were directly injected into the areas where the tumors were and then a genetic safety switch was added in order for medicine to be administered to destroy the cells if they possibly caused any harm.

Results in 2017 showed that disappearance of cancer cells or shrinkage occurred and only a few had their cancers worsen, but although some patients experienced temporary low blood counts and fatigue, there were no severe side effects to the CAR-T therapy treatments.

In a second study a different CAR-T therapy treatment was used in patients with advanced cancers originating in soft tissue and bones (sarcomas), the CAR-T therapy treatment was given several times and up to 15 times in one recorded case as long as there were signs that the treatment was making a difference.

These studies show promise for a path forward to treating other solid tumors with CAR-T therapy in the stomach, breast, colon, lung and other areas said Dr. Louis Weiner, who is the director of the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.

However cost is the big issue at around $400,000 for a current CAR-T therapy to be done but if conducted in a research center it could done for less .