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New Treatment Fights Rare Blood Cancer

FILE: A scientist studies cancer cells inside white blood cells through a microscope at the GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) research center in Stevenage, Britain on Nov. 26, 2019.

WASHINGTON - A treatment that involves genetically modifying the body's own immune cells has been found to cut the risk of disease progression by 74 percent in people with a rare type of blood cancer, results showed Monday.

Ciltacabtagene autoleucel "delivers remarkably effective outcomes compared to patients' current options" and "can be used safely earlier in the treatment phase," said oncologist Oreofe Odejide at the American Society of Clinical Oncology's annual meeting where results were presented.

The drug, also known by its trade name Carvykti, was tested in a clinical trial involving 419 patients with multiple myeloma, whose disease was not responsive to the current frontline drug lenalidomide, a chemotherapy medicine.

"After a median follow-up of 16 months, the researchers found that ciltacabtagene autoleucel reduced the risk of disease progression by 74 percent, compared with the standard-of-care treatments," a press statement said.

Ciltacabtagene autoleucel is a type of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy, a newer form of treatment.

CAR T-cell therapy involves removing the patient's disease fighting T cells, and genetically engineering them in a lab so they have specific proteins known as receptors that, once returned to the body, will seek out and destroy cancer cells.

Nearly all the patients in both groups experienced severe to life-threatening adverse events, including infections and low blood cell counts.

Around five percent of patients on ciltacabtagene autoleucel developed immune effector cell-associated neurotoxicity syndrome (ICANS), which affects a person's nervous system.

Next, the researchers will continue to follow the study participants to determine long-term effects and impacts on quality of life.

The clinical trial was funded by Janssen Research & Development and Legend Biotech USA.