An Update on CAR T-Cell Therapy

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Topics include: Treatment

What is CAR-T therapy, and how important is it in the fight against CLL?  Dr. Philip Thompson, CLL specialist with MD Anderson Cancer Center, explains how CAR-T cell mechanism works.  Dr. Thompson also describes the effectiveness of this novel approach to treatment, stating, “I think this will be a big part of treatment for all B-cell malignancies, like CLL, going forward.”

Sponsored by the Patient Empowerment Network, which received educational grants from AbbVie Inc. and Genentech Inc.

 

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Transcript

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you. 

Andrew Schorr:

There was a special news report about a newly tested treatment for leukemia using modified white blood cells immune system, and it had a very high cure rate. I was wondering if this would apply to CLL.

Dr. Thompson:  

I’m assuming that we’re talking about CAR T cells. This is a very, very exciting technology that allows researchers to take a patient’s own immune cells, modify them genetically in the laboratory, grow them up to high numbers outside of the body, which takes about 7 to 14 days, and then they’re infused back into the patient. Now, the genetic modification causes the cells to express a receptor called a CAR receptor on the surface of the cells, and this allows the cells to specifically target a protein called CD19, which is expressed on the cancer cells. This has been spectacularly effective in patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. 

In fact, in many cases, 90 percent of these patients are achieving a complete remission from the CAR T cells, and these are patients who’ve failed all of the standard treatments for this disease, so this is an amazing result. It has been tested in CLL, and, initially, there were three patients who achieved very dramatic complete remissions with CAR T-cell treatments that were delivered at the University of Pennsylvania. Subsequently, the results have maybe been a little bit less impressive than that. 

The University of Pennsylvania updated the results recently. They had 14 patients, and they had a response rate of 56 percent. And they had 4 out of 14 patients in a complete remission, and a number of those patients were still in a very long-term complete remission. My take at the moment is in CLL it works less well than in ALL. But when it does work, it works spectacularly.

I think this is definitely a technology which we’re going to understand better in the future. At the moment, in many cases, we don’t know why they don’t work in one patient versus another patient or even one disease that has the same target compared to another disease that has that target. I think that there’ll be a lot of research done on this over the next few years, and we’ll get better at using these CAR T cells, designing them better, and possibly even combining them with some other immune stimulatory drugs to enhance their activity. I think this’ll be a big part of treatment for all B-cell malignancies, like CLL, going forward.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you. 

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Page last updated on May 24, 2016