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More CAR-T Therapies Sought

A number of companies and research institutes are getting in on gene therapies like the one a US Food and Drug Administration panel recently recommended for approval, the New York Times reports.

"This has been utterly transformative in blood cancers," Stephan Grupp, the director of the cancer immunotherapy program at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, tells the Times. "If it can start to work in solid tumors, it will be utterly transformative for the whole field."

The FDA panel recommended that the agency approve Novartis' customized CAR-T therapy for leukemia in which T-cells are taken from patients, engineered to attack B-cells, and reintroduced into the patients. The Times reports that Novartis is pursuing a similar treatment for lymphoma, as is Kite Pharma, Juno, and others. Novartis is also studying T-cell-based therapies for chronic lymphocytic leukemia, multiple myeloma, and glioblastoma.

Likewise, research institutions are exploring giving CAR-T treatments earlier in the disease course as well as in combination with checkpoint inhibitors or other drugs, the Times says. There are also projects underway exploring the use of natural killer cells rather than T-cells as they can be given to other people besides the donor and efforts to develop such therapies targeting breast, lung, ovary, pancreatic, and prostate cancers.