In CAR-T cell therapy, scientists engineer immune cells to target specific types of blood cancer, using the body's own immune defenses to tackle the cancer. A sample of the patient's T-cells are taken from their blood and genetically modified in the lab to add sensors (Chimeric Antigen Receptors) that seek out certain cancers.
The cells are allowed to multiply, before being infused back into the patient, where the new antigen receptors allow them to target and destroy the cancer cells. The initial blood sample can be taken in either form.
Current treatment is with aggressive chemotherapy, which has a severe effect on patients’ quality of life, both during and after treatment. Around 50% of patients will relapse, leaving them with few treatment options. CAR-Ts offer the potential of a cure in cancers where options are limited, and may therefore prove life-saving for a select group of patients, increasing life expectancy by nearly 70 years.
There are around 44,000 new cases of blood cancers diagnosed across Europe every year. Globally in 2013, around 600,000 people died from blood cancers. Estimates suggest that if the promise of CAR-Ts is realised, it could amount to 9,400 lives saved and 300,000 life years gained for EU patients diagnosed in 2020.
CAR-Ts may offer a one-time solution, displacing the costs of chemotherapy treatments, and reducing expenditure on targeted therapy by between 55 and 100%. The curative promise of CAR-Ts may allow people to live longer, healthier, more productive lives.
Production of CAR-Ts needs to be provided at or close to the point of delivery, creating a need to develop novel, integrated care delivery pathways. Investment may therefore be required to set up large facilities, where the treatments can be both manufactured and given to patients.