An innovative cancer immunotherapy has been tested in Ticino for the first time. The first patients suffering from aggressive B-cell lymphomas were treated as part of an international study. This disease had previously proved to be resistant to chemotherapy and immunotherapy. According to a press release, the tumor had started to decrease in size within the space of a few days following treatment with the new CAR-T-cell therapy. This treatment was conducted at the Oncological Institute of Italian Switzerland (Istituto Oncologico della Svizzera Italiana, IOSI).
CAR-T-cell therapy is suitable for the treatment of aggressive B-cell lymphomas and acute lymphoblastic leukemia. To start with, T-cells are extracted from the patient’s blood. These are then genetically modified to form chimeric antigen receptors (CAR) on the surface. This strengthens the cells and allows them to identify the tumor more effectively. The modified CAR-T-cells are then re-administered to the patient. They then multiply inside the body, attack the tumor and destroy it permanently in the best-case scenario. This is an approach that combines the human body’s own natural defensive forces with cutting-edge gene and immunotherapy.
Conventional chemotherapy is, for example, typically effective against around 60% of aggressive B-cell lymphomas. If this does not work for a patient or they suffer a relapse, autologous stem cell transplantation is then targeted. However, the success rate for this treatment is very low, at around 10 percent to 50 percent. This therapy has now been compared against the efficacy of CAR-T-cell therapy in a global study. It will determine whether CAR-T-cell therapy will become the new therapeutic standard for tumors of this type. The results of the study are to be published in the coming months.