As a result of an innovative cancer treatment with CAR-T cells, patients remained cancer-free ten years later. Immunotherapy is also used in Germany.
Pennsylvania – Cancer is still a disease that kills many people. Researchers are working on innovative forms of therapy to treat various types of cancer. According to the German Cancer Society, one of the newer forms of therapy is immunotherapy with CAR-T cells. CAR-T cells are used to treat forms of blood cancer (leukemia) and lymph node cancer.
A study by the University of Pennsylvania in the USA now shows the long-term success of the treatment, as reported by the US knowledge portal Popular Science and The New York Times. Three patients were treated with the innovative immunotherapy in 2010 as part of the clinical study. Two of the patients responded well to therapy and remained cancer-free for over ten years. According to Popular Science, the two men named Doug Olson and William Ludwig are among the first patients ever to be treated with CAR-T cells. Doug Olson is 75 years old today. William Ludwig died last year as a result of a corona*-Infection. CAR-T cells were still detected in the blood of both, when the cancer cells had long since disappeared.
Innovative cancer treatment: Immunotherapy with CAR-T cells means that patients are cancer-free for ten years
Lead investigator Carl June, an immunologist at the University of Pennsylvania, told The New York Times that he was positive about CAR-T cell immunotherapy. “Now we can finally pronounce the word ‘cure’ with CAR-T cells,” he said.
Steven Rosenberg, surgeon and cancer researcher at the National Cancer Institute in the United States USA*, was somewhat more reserved, but also confident about the long-term success of the treatment. According to Popular Science, Rosenberg treated the first patient with lymph node cancer with CAR T cell therapy in 2009. This patient also recovered and has since been cancer-free. However, it cannot be ruled out that the cancer will return after such a long time, Rosenberg said. Although it is still too early to say with certainty that these patients are cured, the cases are very encouraging. “I think it’s a good step in that direction,” Rosenberg continued. The therapy can give these patients a relatively normal life back.
Immunotherapy with CAR-T cells may possibly “cure” cancer in the long term
David Maloney, an oncologist and researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, made a similar statement, according to Popular Science. “To use the word ‘cure,’ you have to follow patients over a long period of time to make sure they don’t relapse,” Maloney said. If these people are cancer-free up to ten or eleven years after treatment, in some cases one could speak of a “cure”.
The idea of immunotherapy against cancer* is that the body’s own cells should fight the cancer cells. However, cancer cells often hide from their own immune system. The T-cells therefore recognize them less often and the cancer cells can spread quickly. In CAR-T cell therapy, T cells taken from the laboratory are genetically modified in such a way that they recognize and fight cancer cells in the body, as explained on the University Hospital Erlangen website.
Defeating cancer: This is how CAR-T cell therapy works
For this purpose, white blood cells are taken from the patient. The T-cells are then removed from these, and a virus is then introduced into their DNA in the laboratory. The cell then accepts the genetic material of the virus and produces a protein. The protein sticks to the surface of the T cell. The so-called chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) recognizes and fights the cancer cells. The manipulated T cells are then injected back into the patient.
After being returned to the body, CAR-T cells could multiply up to 10,000-fold over the course of several weeks, cancer expert Rosenberg says, according to Popular Science. The patient is treated with his own cells. “It’s a living drug,” Rosenberg said. The CAR-T cells could survive in the body for years and appeared capable of bringing about a full, lasting recovery.
However, there are also some disadvantages of immunotherapy with CAR-T cells: For example, they are also said to attack healthy tissue. In addition, CAR-T cell therapy has not yet been effective in treating common types of cancer such as colon cancer, stomach cancer, prostate, breast and uterine cancer. To date, two methods using CAR-T cells have been approved in Germany. In addition, adult patients must have completed two other cancer therapies without success in order to receive the treatment. Certain factors like Smoking or being overweight increase the risk of cancer*. (df)
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