Setback in new cancer treatment: deaths in immunotherapy study
Around half a million people in Germany are diagnosed with cancer each year. In most cases, surgery, chemotherapy and / or radiation follow. But meanwhile, personalized therapies are increasingly used. So-called immunotherapy is a new treatment approach that holds great hopes for patients. However, hopes have now been tarnished by deaths.
T cells of your own immune system
Recently, a new immunotherapy for blood cancer has been reported. T cells from the patient's own immune system are used to target malignant cells in patients with advanced leukemia. Thanks to this method, patients have already been cured.
Successful therapy against cancer
Success in immunotherapy against cancer has been common in recent years. Last autumn, doctors from London's Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) reported on a little girl who was cured for the first time with a special cell therapy that had never been used before.
Deaths during a study
But now there have been deaths during a study that diminished hope for the new therapeutic approach. According to a report from "Technology Review", Juno Therapeutics has interrupted its clinical trial with immunotherapy for patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia after two deaths.
According to the information, three participants in the same study had previously died. However, other groups continue to research the new class of drugs, which promise enormous potential for some patients with deadly cancers.
For patients who do not respond to other treatments
In the so-called CAR-T therapy, T cells are removed from the patient and genetically modified so that, after being returned to the patient, they recognize and attack cancer cells. So far, this therapy has been considered particularly promising and should be able to help people who do not respond to other treatments.
According to "Technology Review", these therapies, according to Terry Fry, a pediatric cancer doctor who is developing CAR-T therapy at the US National Cancer Institute, are potentially "revolutionary" for patients who would otherwise have little chance of getting cancer.
Some people are completely cancer-free after CAR-T therapy, but the deaths in the Juno study give reason to rethink, the doctor said: "Most of these patients have no other therapeutic options, but that doesn't mean that Neurotoxicity would be acceptable. "
Unclear whether problematic study will continue
According to Juno Therapeutics' managing director, Hans Bishop, the company is still aiming to launch its first CAR-T therapy in 2018. However, it is currently unclear whether the company will completely end the problematic study and concentrate on other therapies instead. (ad)