CAR T-cell therapies - which harness immune cells to destroy cancer - are a step closer to becoming available, after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) approved the first two drugs of this type.
The EMA recommended the licensing of chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy (CAR T) drugs Yescarta and Kymriah to treat several blood cancers, including childhood leukaemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
The drugs are also being assessed by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) to establish whether or not they should be approved for use in the NHS in England. A decision on both drugs is expected by late 2018.
Global trials of CAR T-cell therapies have shown promising results among people with blood cancer who have failed to respond to other treatments.
The treatment, designed to be a one-off therapy, involves taking immune cell samples from the patient and genetically modifying them in a laboratory so that they recognise, seek out and kill cancer cells. They are then returned to the patient’s blood system.
Dr Alasdair Rankin, director of research at Bloodwise, welcomed the news, saying that the development of CAR T therapy is “one of the most promising advances in blood cancer treatment in decades”, adding that it offers a chance for patients who have run out of treatment options.
“Today’s decision means that one of the most exciting types of blood cancer treatment we’ve ever seen has taken another step towards becoming available on the NHS,” he said.
“The next step is for NICE to decide whether to make these treatments available and then for the NHS to get the complex infrastructure in place that CAR T relies on.”
NICE is assessing the use of Yescarta for the treatment of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), mediastinal B-cell lymphoma and follicular lymphoma, while Kymriah is being assessed for the treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia and DLBCL.
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