News

Cancer tumor therapies with T cells: Authorities are initially stopping clinical studies based on deaths


Treatment with a new “miracle cure” obviously harbors dangers
Radiation and chemotherapy play an important role in the treatment of blood cancer. Health experts believe, however, that even a “living drug” can achieve great success in the fight against leukemia. We are talking about genetically modified T-lymphocytes ("T-cells") that detect blood cancer and are supposed to destroy it completely within a few days. The new process is considered a possible new "miracle weapon" - but is obviously not without risk. A clinical trial had to be canceled due to several deaths.

New procedure uses immune cells against blood cancer
A new immunotherapy for blood cancer has been researched for several years. This so-called “T cell therapy” uses T cells from your own immune system to target malignant cells in patients with advanced leukemia. The cells taken from the blood are genetically modified in the laboratory so that they can detect blood cancer cells, attack them directly and finally destroy them completely. The new procedure is already being traded as a new "miracle cure" for aggressive types of cancer - but the treatment method is obviously not without risk.

As the magazine “Technology Review” reports in its online edition, a clinical trial in the USA even had to be stopped because of several deaths. According to the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Juno Therapeutics study interrupted after three patients died from toxic reactions.

Pretreatment led to brain swelling
According to the information, the safety and efficacy of therapy JCAR015 should be investigated in at least 50 volunteers suffering from acute lymphoblastic leukemia in the phase 2 study “ROCKET” of the biotech company from Seattle. The form of treatment is being tested on adults who have already had three or four relapses of leukemia. In these cases, the likelihood of a complete fight against cancer is very low, which is why risky treatment is justified. However, the three subjects did not die from the altered T cells, Juno Therapeutics said, according to the report. Instead, pretreatment with fludarabine led to fatal brain swelling.

The study is now being continued
"Everyone here comes to work to develop therapies that help people, but something like that teaches us all humility here," Juno boss Hans Bishop is quoted by Technology Review magazine. The company's stock had meanwhile dropped by more than 30 percent after the deaths became known. In the meantime, however, the FDA has allowed the ROCKET research project to be continued, the report continues. However, the approval actually planned for 2017 is probably no longer attainable.

According to the company, the procedure has worked in 8 out of 10 patients in previous Juno leukemia studies. But the medication is very strong and the intervention in the immune system involves risks. Therefore, T cell therapy needs continuous further development. "I don't think these incidents reduce the long-term potential of genetically modified T cells," said Michel Sadelain of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, according to the magazine. (No)

Author and source information


Video: Immuno-oncology and immunotherapy introduction (October 2020).