According to a story from globenewswire.com, the pharmaceutical company Novartis recently announced that its CAR-T cell therapy drug Kymriah recently gained approval from the European Commission. The drug was approved for the treatment of two types of cancer: relapsed acute lymphoblastic leukemia in patients up to age 25, and relapsed diffuse large B-cell lymphoma after two or more therapeutic approaches have been attempted.
About Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is a blood cancer that affects lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. The disease is characterized by the abnormal proliferation of cancerous, immature lymphocytes. As an acute leukemia, prompt intervention is necessary and it can be fatal within weeks without treatment. Risk factors for this disease include several genetic mutations and genetic conditions, including Down syndrome. Symptoms include pale skin, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, bone pain, easy bleeding/bruising, and fever. Five year survival in children is 90 percent, but it is only 35 percent in adults.
About Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma
Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma is the most common type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in adults, and affects B cells, a type of white blood cell that produces antibodies. It is aggressive and can appear almost anywhere. Risk factors for this cancer include immunodeficiencies and infection with the Epstein-Barr virus. It can also arise from other forms of lymphoma or leukemia. Symptoms include a rapidly growing mass, night sweats, fever, and abrupt weight loss. While aggressive, this cancer is curable for some patients; the five year survival rate is 58 percent.
Kymriah was first approved in the US in August 2017 and was the first approved gene therapy in the US. The drug works by extracting T-cells from a cancer patient, genetically modified in order to respond to the patient’s cancer cells, and the introduced back into the body. With this treatment, the patient’s own immune cells are turned on the cancer by targeting a protein that is commonly found on cancerous B cells.
Generally, for patients who have seen their acute lymphoblastic leukemia or diffuse large B-cell lymphoma begin to relapse after extensive treatment, the outlook for them can seem grim. However, with the approval of Kymriah, these patients now have another treatment tool that can give them a better chance at survival.