CAR-T cancer trial claims 90% remission rates

A new study looking into chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) is reported to have achieved ‘unprecedented’ results in the treatment of terminally ill cancer patients.

The therapy, which modifies T-cells from the immune system to attack cancer cells, reportedly led to complete remission in over 90% of the trial participants.

All of the trial participants were diagnosed with terminal late-stage acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). T-cells from the participants were initially extracted from blood samples, before being genetically modified and reintroduced.

The trial results were presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting in Washington DC. However, the data are currently under review.

Lead researcher Stanley Riddell hailed the findings as “unprecedented in medicine”, emphasising the rarity of such results in those with very advanced cancer.

He cited “the merging of gene therapy, synthetic biology and cell biology” as a means of potentially transforming cancer care, specifically in those with refractory cancers.

Concerns over safety remain, however, as seven of the patients involved required intensive care having developed ‘cytokine release syndrome’, and a further two participants died.

BBC Health Editor James Gallagher also commented on the flexibility of the treatment, claiming: “The real challenge now is how do we get this to work for other cancers, how do we get it to work for what’s known as solid cancers, cancers in the tissue?”

Immunotherapies are the latest field of treatments to cause excitement in the field of oncology, many of which are seeing encouraging results in early trials.

PD-1 inhibitors Opdivo and Keytruda have both shown promise, being added to the Early Access to Medicines Scheme (EAMS) for kidney cancer and achieving fast-track status for melanoma, respectively, following a demonstrated advantage over current standards of care.

Swiss pharma giant Novartis has also recently shown interest in the CAR-T therapy field, with its drug candidate CTL-019 expected to be the first to file in 2017.

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