Over the past several years, immunotherapy — therapies that enlist and strengthen the power of a patient’s immune system to attack tumors — has emerged as what many in the cancer community now call the “fifth pillar” of cancer treatment. A rapidly emerging immunotherapy approach is called adoptive cell transfer (ACT): collecting and using patients’ own immune cells to treat their cancer. There are several types of ACT but, thus far, the one that has advanced the furthest in clinical development is called CAR T-cell therapy.
If you are an adult fighting a Lymphoma or have a child fighting ALL (Leukemia) and your doctor has not yet talked with you about CAR T-Cell therapy, you need to find a doctor who knows about it and can work with you on the potential application of this new treatment option.
But be careful as you are doing your online research. While this new therapy is showing great promise, it has also shown some severe side effects, even death, in some of the early trials. There are several drug companies now pedaling their recently FDA-approved drugs that fall into this category of treatments. Of course they are competing for your business and at $373,000 to $475,000 (currently) per treatment, there is a high incentive for them to get you to buy their treatments.
I guess this is why it feels a bit like the online Wild-Wild West when I start googling about CAR T-cell therapy. You will find a ton of links, but you have to work very hard to separate online ads and info posted by pharmaceutical companies from info posted by legitimate medical sources. And as the potential for these new therapies to be used as treatments for Leukemia and Multiple Myeloma are developed, it will only become more confusing.
The best solution is to find a doctor and/or treatment center that is very knowledgeable about these new therapies. But make no mistake about it, CAR T-cell therapy is a very exciting new tool in the fight – and possible cure – against blood and bone marrow cancers. And that is definitely something to pay attention to!