In a recent press release, Novartis, a Swiss multinational drug producer, that 92 percent of the patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) experienced complete remissions after undergoing the CTL09 therapy. Also, about 70 to 75 percent of the patients survived a 6-month period without further therapy and no disease comebacks.
Novartis’ CTL09 therapy is a medical technology that uses Chimeric Antigen Receptors (CARs) to reprogram patients’ T cells to start fighting cancer cells that contain CD19 proteins. The reprogrammed T cells also known as CTL09 enter the circulatory system, multiply and hunt down CD19 cells. Novartis says that CTL09 is nevertheless an investigational therapy available only to patients participating in clinical trials and might never be available for commercialization.
The latest CTL09 findings from clinical trails will be made public at the 56th American Society of Hematology (ASH) annual meeting in San Francisco. Many researchers are extremely excited by the event because they will learn more about how CARs really work and their efficiency in fighting cancer.
“Innovation in the cellular therapy field is accelerating right now. When we see the response patients have to CTL019 when they have few options left, it’s incredibly inspiring. Novartis will leverage our facility in Morris Plains, the first FDA-approved Good Manufacturing Practices quality site for a cell therapy, and the multi-center study for CTL019 in collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania, to broaden the reach of this therapy to additional patients in the clinical setting,”
Usman Azam, spokesperson for Novartis Pharmaceuticals, said.
At the ASH meeting will be also presented clinic results about CTL09 effectiveness in fighting against acute lymphoblastic leukemia, chronic lymphocytic leukemia and B cell non-Hodgkin lyphoma.
Stephan Grupp, lead researcher involved in the clinical trials, said he saw children with ALL who didn’t respond to any other medication achieving complete remissions after a revolutionary T-cell therapy. Dr Grupp added that this was only a first step, but he has high hopes of CAR technology since many children remained in remission after one year or more.
However, the cure has also some side-effects. All patients who had responded to CTL09 therapy developed cytokine release syndrome (CRS). CRS occurs when reprogrammed T-cells start to multiply in the blood system releasing high amounts of cytokines; this leads to high fever, muscle pain, nausea and even breathing difficulties and low blood pressure. Thirty-three patients required urgent treatment with a special antibody to stabilize their blood pressure and respiratory system, while five of them required also corticosteroids.
In 2013, more than 48.000 Americans were diagnosed with leukemia; among them nearly 6.000 were diagnosed with ALL.