While standard protocols such as chemotherapy are still widely used, clinical trials are supporting the discovery of new treatments and some have proven to be very effective.
CAR-T cell therapy is one of these new breakthroughs. This form of immunotherapy enables the body to use its own T cells to target and destroy the patient’s own cancer cells.
For those suffering from oncological tumors (not blood cancers), drug delivery to the tumor itself has been one of the largest barriers to treatment as most chemotherapies are not attacking only the tumor but healthy cells as well and patients suffer tremendous side effects.
What T cell therapy is aiming to solve is how drugs can be administered to those with oncological tumors, without being off target. Early efforts are promising, and for those with Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma, MPM, this is a new route of treatment that may help patients achieve even REMISSION.
Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma, MPM
Historically, those who suffer from MPM have a poor prognosis, typically being given 6-12 months to live post diagnosis.
The treatment options for MPM are extremely limited and patients are often diagnosed at a later stage by which point treatment becomes focused on palliative care and not actually treating the disease. The usual first-line treatment for MPM patients is chemotherapy combined with Alimta and Cisplatin.
CAR-T cell therapy
CAR-T cell therapy is allowing researchers to transform a patient’s T cells into cancer-targeting cells. T cells carry a T-Cell Receptor, TCR, which is specialized to target specific antigens on the surface of a cell.
Because of this, Mesothelioma has become a perfect use case for this therapy, as Mesothelin, a tumor differentiation antigen, is often overexpressed on MPM cells. Due to this overexpression of Mesothelin on MPM cells, healthy cells will not be attacked by the cancer-targeting T cells, which should then allow the body to destroy the cancer cells and keep healthy tissue cells intact.
Current research efforts
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center has been one of the few facilities to actively pursue the use of T cell therapy for MPM patients. In a recent trial, 12 patients, 10 of which suffer from MPM, were given a single dose of lcasM28z CAR T-cells.
Close monitoring found that these patients did not express signs of therapy-related toxicity.
Of the 12 patients that participated in this trial, five showed signs of tumor regression. Additionally, 1 patient had a complete response, deemed clinically well 8 months after receiving the T-cell infusion.
Accessibility of CAR-T cell therapy
One of the biggest problems with this form of treatment is its accessibility and pricing. Small clinical trials limit the number of patients who may benefit from this therapy, and if you wish to be treated without enrolling in a trial, the costs can be astronomical.
The best treatment for a cancer patient is to get the most advanced cancer drugs in advanced stages of development. There, the hope and the chance to extend life go far beyond the standard protocols.
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