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To the Wrong Cell

While CAR T-cell therapy has helped turn patients' own immune cells into cancer-fighting tools, researchers report this week on a instance in which the therapy was mistakenly delivered to a cancer cell, Stat News reports.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania report in Nature Medicine on the case of a 20-year-old man with B-ALL who was enrolled in their phase I trial to assess the safety and feasibility of the CAR T-cell therapy CTL019 in pediatric and young adult cases of B-ALL. This therapy was approved in 2017 as Novartis's Kymriah.

The patient relapsed and the researchers' investigation revealed that the CAR gene was introduced into a single leukemic B cell alongside the intended T cells. While the treatment attacked other leukemic cells, this altered cell evaded the therapy and multiplied. The patient eventually died.

Stat News notes that this case occurred about five years, and Novartis adds that the manufacturing process used in the study and their commercial one differs and they are not aware of cases like this occurring using their process.

MD Anderson Cancer Center's Jason Westin, who was not involved in the study, tells Stat News that cases like this will help researchers understand how resistance to CAR T-cell therapies emerge.