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Miles to Go

While there's lots of excitement over new gene therapies for cancer patients, Technology Review writes that some patients won't have easy access to such therapies.

Last year, the US Food and Drug Administration approved two gene therapies for cancer, Novartis' Kymriah for acute lymphoblastic leukemia and Kite Pharmaceuticals' Yescarta for lymphoma.

Tech Review maps out current and announced sites in the US where patients can get either Kymriah or Yescarta and noticed that those locations are concentrated in cities and miss states like Wyoming and Arkansas altogether. Little Rock, Ark., it notes, is 350 miles from the nearest treatment site. This could serve to only exasperate the survival divide between urban and rural cancer patients, it says, noting that cancer already tends to kill more rural patients.

Tech Review adds, though, that both drugs are new to the market and that both Novartis and Gilead, which owns Kite, plan to roll out more sites.

Peter Emanuel from the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute in Little Rock tells Tech Review that he's not yet concerned about treatment access. When additional CAR-T therapies are approved for more common cancers, that's when he says it would make sense to have more treatment sites, including in small cities and rural areas.