How breakthrough CAR-T cancer therapies could be made more widely accessible

The development and regulatory approval of the first autologous CAR T-cell therapies is a huge advance for modern medicine and has been greeted with justifiable excitement. But applications of this technology are still limited, and given the time and cost constraints, more must be done to broaden access to this treatment. Current limitations of CAR-T therapies could potentially be overcome through new advances in the production of T-cell progenitors, suggests Dr Olivier Negre, Chief Scientific Officer of Smart Immune.

CAR T-cell therapy is a form of immunotherapy that uses specially altered T cells to fight cancer. A sample of T cells is collected from the blood of a cancer patient, genetically engineered to produce chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) on their surface, and then expanded and reinfused into the patient. These new receptors enable the cells to latch onto a specific antigen on the patient’s tumour cells and kill them.

CAR-T therapy has proven to be particularly effective in the treatment of certain blood cancers, but it currently comes with several limitations.

CAR T-cell production is long and complicated. The process includes apheresis of the patient, access to a treatment facility, and a long waiting time as the new cells are produced. This is not ideal for patients who are already very ill. In addition, generation of a ‘fit’ cell product is not guaranteed as these patients have usually already undertaken aggressive chemotherapies, and of course the significant cost of the treatment limits broad access to the technology.