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The Few

When immunotherapy works for a cancer patient, it seems to work incredibly well, Wired reports. But, it notes, it doesn't work for everyone — not even the majority of patients.

"The reality is immunotherapy is incredibly valuable for the people who can actually benefit from it, but there are far more people out there who don't benefit at all," Vinay Prasad from Oregon Health and Science University tells Wired. He has estimated that immunotherapy will only help fewer than 10 percent of cancer patients. Wired notes, though, that he limited his calculation to checkpoint inhibitors that turn T cells on to kill cancer cells.

Now, researchers and companies are turning to new CAR-T cell therapies in which patients' own T cells are removed and genetically engineered to attack tumor cells, Wired adds. The US Food and Drug Administration has approved two such approaches this year, Novartis' Kymriah for leukemia and Kite Pharmaceuticals' Yescarta for B-cell lymphoma.

But, even with the ascendance of CAR-T therapies, Wired writes that those new approaches will still only work for a sliver of patients. Still, it adds that the therapies have attracted a lot of interest — and a high price tag.

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