Revolutionary Immunotherapy Offers New Hope Against Cancer

FILE - In this May 2016 file photo, cell therapy specialists at the company's manufacturing facility in El Segundo, Calif., prepare blood cells from a patient to be engineered in the lab to fight cancer. (Kite Pharma via AP, File)

A form of immunotherapy using CAR T-lymphocytes offers new treatment possibilities and options for doctors and patients in oncology-hematology. As more and more patients are shown to respond to this treatment at high rates over long periods of time, it is emerging as a revolutionary treatment for patients who would otherwise have limited treatment options.

Based on the fact that on 18 October 2017, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a positive opinion on the administration of axilabtagene ciloleucel (immunotherapy with CAR T-lymphocytes) in adult patients with large B-cell lymphoma that have not responded to at least two previous treatments,

Thanos Dimopoulos, Professor of Therapeutic Hematology-Oncology and Rector of the University of Athens, announced that “out of the 101 patients who received this treatment, 72 pct responded, while 51 pct of patients had a complete remission.”

According to Dimopoulos, the milestone for cancer immunotherapy was the positive FDA opinion in August 2017 on the use of CAR T-lymphocytes in children and young adults with a subtype of acute lymphoblastic leukemia that had not responded to other treatments or suffered a relapse.

“It is the first treatment of this category to be approved. Over 80 pct of patients have responded to this treatment,” Dimopoulos said.

As Dimopoulos explained, cancer immunotherapy includes drugs that “use” the body’s immune system to fight cancer cells.

“In this way, the immune system recognizes and selectively attacks cancer cells, while at the same time providing long-term memory to the immune system, providing a lasting and long-term treatment. So immunotherapy employs the cells of the immune system to act more effectively against cancer cells. So it takes off the brakes and other mechanisms that cancer cells develop for stopping the immune response,” he noted.

Regarding CAR T-lymphocytes, they are an innovative immunotherapy approach, especially in hematological malignancies, he said adding that “the technique involves the removal of immune system cells from the patient, which are genetically engineered to identify cancer cells and attack them.”