New ‘Living Drug’ Gives Terminal Cancer Patients Hope

A new therapy called CAR-T is custom-tailored for patients and uses their own cells to fight terminal blood cancer.

CAR-T / Image: Gilead
CAR-T / Image: Gilead

Terminal cancer of the blood is a rare occurrence that is typically treated with chemotherapy, a long and unpleasant process. A recent BBC News article reported on a new treatment that is giving these terminal patients, of which there are roughly 200 a year, new hope for survival. The therapy is called CAR-T, and it’s a “living drug” that’s custom-made for each patient and uses their own cells.

Physicians remove T-cells from the patient’s blood, freeze them in liquid nitrogen, and send them to laboratories. There, the cells are genetically reprogrammed into “chimeric antigen receptor T-cells” (CAR-T cells) that destroy cancer, rather than bacteria and viruses. The manufacturing process produces millions of the modified cells and takes about a month. Long-term data on effectiveness isn’t available since the strategy is still new, but early results look promising.

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