Greek Researcher Maria Themeli on Cancer Treatment with CAR-T Cells

(Photo by Eurokinissi/Yiannis Panagopoulos)

Maria Themeli is a researcher with important contribution in the treatment of blood cancer and assistance professor of Medicine in The Netherlands. She received the innovation prize Argo that is bestowed to Greeks living and working abroad.

The prize was offered to Themeli for the production of CAR-T cells that fight cancer. Themeli and her group’s aim it to make this patent accessible to all because, as she believes, the therapy for cancer should not be the privilege of the few.

As she explained to Athens-Macedonian News Agency “there are difficulties because the pharmaceutical companies interested in the production of CAR-T cells (Novartis and Kite Pharma) have given very high production cost, approximately 350,000 euros, when the production at academic level does not exceed 50,000 euros. “This displeases me as it makes the treatment, outside the clinical study, very difficult as the insurance funds in Europe are not willing to cover such a treatment cost”.

She believes that immunotherapy by itself or in combination with other treatments can substantially improve the survival period of those suffering of specific kinds of cancer.

“Studies at clinical and pre-clinical level on the use of CAR-T are held at the moment but for cases of solid cancer things are more difficult and the results not so spectacular. Our group, along with scientists from all over the world, is trying to find solutions to these problems and I believe that very soon we will have improved results for the treatment with CAR-T and on other types of cancer.

Unfortunately, when we believed we had finished with this puzzle, suddenly new parts appear and this happens because cancer is an extremely variable disease” Themeli underlined.

“In the laboratory I set small and big, short term and long term target and I celebrate them all” said Themeli adding that “It is important to celebrate them because in research there is 90 percent failure and disappointment and only 10 percent moments of happiness. The answer to a question is the driving force” she noted.