Could athersys play a role in the progression of CAR-T Therapy?

One of newest and most exciting approved treatments for cancer is the use of CAR-T therapy. CAR stands for chimeric antigen receptor and T stands for T-cell. Currently both Novartis (NVS) and Gilead (NASDAQ:GILD) have CAR-T therapies approved by the FDA. Axicabtagene (Yescarta) is sold by Gilead and is approved for refractory diffuse large b cell lymphoma(DLBCL). Refractory DLBCL is extremely difficult to treat with a complete response rate of only 7% and median survival of just over 6 months.

Axicabtagene was shown to have a complete response rate of 40%. Tisagenlucleucel (Kymriah) is sold by Novartis and was first approved for treating relapsed B-Cell Acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Both therapies cost north of $300,000 and must be given in a hospital inpatient setting.

A simple explanation of CAR-T therapy is that the patient’s own T cells are extracted, multiplied, and modified and then re-infused into the patient. These modified T cells then seek out and destroy cancer cells. CAR-T therapies have remission rates of up to 94% in certain cancers. However, one of the downsides of CAR-T therapies is the high risk of a dangerous side effect known as cytokine release syndrome (CRS).

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