Exploring CAR T-cell therapy in cancer treatment

Scott Black / 24 Jun, 2024

Immunotherapy has emerged as a transformative approach in treating different types of blood cancer, using the body’s immune system to target and eliminate cancer cells. Among the various forms of immunotherapy, chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy stands out for its innovative use of genetically modified T-cells, a type of immune cell, to recognise and attack cancer.

How CAR T-cell therapy works

Modifying T-cells: Patients’ T-cells are collected and genetically engineered to express a new gene that produces a specific receptor on their surface.

Recognising cancer: This receptor, known as a chimeric antigen receptor, allows the T-cells to identify and bind to a particular protein found on the surface of cancer cells.

Attacking the cancer: Once infused back into the patient, these modified T-cells multiply and launch an immune response against the cancer cells.

Current progress

The field of CAR T-cell therapy is rapidly advancing, with six treatments currently approved by the Federal Drug Association (FDA) in the United States for various blood cancers.

For relapsed multiple myeloma, two CAR T-cell therapies have shown promising responses, with high remission rates. Four therapies targeting the CD19 protein on B-cell lymphoma and acute lymphoblastic leukemia cells have also been approved, demonstrating potential curative effects in challenging cases.

The initial success in blood cancers has spurred research into CAR T-cell therapy for solid tumours and other complex blood cancers, such as acute myeloid leukemia and AL amyloidosis.

Clinical trials are underway to explore and refine these new treatments, aiming to expand their effectiveness and accessibility.

There is a pressing need to improve access to CAR T-cell therapy in Australia, to provide patients with more treatment options and the hope of better outcomes.

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