News ID: 199708
Published: 0422 GMT September 01, 2017

'Historic' new drug could redesign immune system to fight leukemia

'Historic' new drug could redesign immune system to fight leukemia

Cancer could soon be tackled by reprogramming the immune system, after experts in the US approved a pioneering new drug.

A new drug to fight cancer has just been approved in the US, reported.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has described its decision as ‘historic’.

They have approved a medicine called CAR-T — the first ‘living drug’ for cancer — which can successfully treat a certain type of blood cancer in 83 percent of people.

It works by redesigning the patient’s own immune system so it attacks acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

White blood cells are extracted from the blood and then genetically reprogrammed to find and eliminate cancer.

They are then inserted back in the patient where they will then multiply.

Unlike current treatments, such as surgery or chemotherapy, the drug can be tailored to each individual.

The treatment - which will be marketed as Kymriah — has been created by Novartis who are charging $475,000 (approximately £367,000).

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, from the FDA, said, “We're entering a new frontier in medical innovation with the ability to reprogram a patient's own cells to attack a deadly cancer.

“New technologies such as gene and cell therapies hold out the potential to transform medicine and create an inflection point in our ability to treat and even cure many intractable illnesses."

Kymriah will be offered to patients when normal treatments fail.

Researchers treated 63 patients with CAR-T therapy.

Within three months 83 percent of them were in complete remission.

However the therapy does come with some risks.

It can lead to potentially life-threatening cytokine release syndrome, but this can be controlled with drugs.

The treatment could also help tackle other types of blood-based cancers.


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