An experimental cancer treatment has a 90 percent success rate in patients with multiple myeloma, one of the most common blood cancers in the world.
Researchers at Hadassah-University Medical Center in Jerusalem, Israel, used a treatment called Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-Cell Therapy, or CAR-T, which boosts the patient’s own immune system to destroy cancer cells.
Of the 74 patients with multiple myeloma who were given the drug, 90 percent went into complete remission, meaning they had no signs of cancer remaining.
‘These are dramatic results. This is a huge hope for patients with a disease that has not yet had a cure,’ Dr Polina Stepensky, head of the university’s bone-marrow transplant and immunotherapy department, told The Jerusalem Post.
The treatment is based on genetic engineering, which is the process of altering DNA makeup using lab-based technology.
Using genetically engineered cells, researchers at the Hadassah-University Medical Center in Jerusalem have developed a treatment to destroy malignant cells in patients with the blood cancer multiple myeloma
The goal is to isolate T cells, which are immune cells that develop from stem cells found in bone marrow.
This is done through apheresis, a process which takes donated blood components and separates white and red cells.
Red blood cells carry oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body, while white blood cells help fight infection.
Then, engineered cells are injected into the patient. These target tumors and help to destroy the cancer.
Unlike in other types of immunotherapy, CAR-T changes cells in a lab so they can make the protein CAR, which binds to cancer cells to eliminate them.
Other therapies create large numbers of lymphocytes, immune cells made in the bone marrow, that travel in or around the tumor area.
‘We have evidence of a very positive overall response rate with minimal side effects, and they are mild,’ Dr Stepensky said.
CAR-T is meant for patients who have had no success with more common treatments, including steroids, chemotherapy, and stem cell transplants. These treatments can have serious side effects. Stem cell transplants, for example, can lower your overall blood count, which can lead to infections and bleeding.
This treatment is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat multiple myeloma, as well as some forms of leukemia and lymphoma.
However, it costs anywhere from $500,000 to $1 million, making it inaccessible to many Americans.
Multiple myeloma is a blood cancer that affects plasma cells. Cancerous cells accumulate in the bone marrow, the spongy tissue at the center of bones. These cells infiltrate normal cells that work to fight infection.
Malignant cells produce the antibody M protein, which has no benefit an causes tumors, kidney damage, bone destruction, and impaired immune function, according to the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.
In the early stages, multiple myeloma might not result in any symptoms, but once they do manifest, they include bone pain, nausea, constipation, loss of appetite, mental fogginess, fatigue, infections, weight loss, weakness or numbness in the legs, and excessive thirst.
The disease is most common in people over 60. Additionally, men and black people are more likely to develop the condition.
The American Cancer Society estimates about 35,000 new cases will be diagnosed in 2023, along with approximately 12,590 deaths.
In the United Kingdom, there are an average or nearly 6,000 new cases per year, according to Cancer Research UK. The nation sees about 3,000 deaths from the disease every year.
If it’s caught early, eight in 10 patients survive more than five years.
After it’s spread, more than half survive.