According to the National Cancer Institute, in 2018, an estimated 1.7 million Americans were diagnosed with cancer. While there is certainly a tremendous variance in the types and stages of diagnoses, many received a diagnosis for sarcoma, carcinoma, or lymphoma. The common thing among all these types is that these are solid tumor cancers. The solid tumor cancer is an abnormal mass of cells within the body. These tumors are able to grow within internal organs, muscles, and bones, becoming increasingly difficult to treat due to the poor ability to deliver drugs to them. However, new immunotherapy known as CAR T-cell therapy is seeing an increase in usage, being very effective in treating certain blood cancers. Doctors and researchers alike are now seeking to utilize CAR T-cell therapy in a different way to attack solid tumor cancers in hopes that this will be the solution to a growing problem in the field of oncology.
What is CAR T-Cell Therapy?
CAR T-cell therapy is a form of immunotherapy that enables T-cells, a type of white blood cell. These help to destroy cancer cells. This is a significant therapy as it utilizes the patient’s own immune system to fight against the disease. T-cells are taken from the patient’s bloodstream, the cells are grown by doctors in abundance and a gene is received for a special receptor known as a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR). The treatment is unique to each patient, meaning that T-cells engineered to fight leukemia are different than those modified to fight carcinoma.
Once there are a suitable amount of new T-cells, they are reintroduced into the patient’s body, ready to seek out cancer cells. Due to the abundance of cells being reintegrated into the patient’s bloodstream, the patient must be monitored carefully. A potentially deadly side effect of T-cell infusion is cytokine release syndrome (CRS), a complication that can lead to cerebral edema, also known as brain swelling. The more common side effects that occur from this reinfusion are rash, nausea, headaches, and decreased blood pressure. While this therapy can potentially lead to a medical emergency, many patients are willing to take this risk.
CAR T-Cell Therapy and Solid Tumors
Recently, researchers have begun to focus on treating solid tumors with CAR T-cell therapy. One of the hardest to treat solid tumor cancers is mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a rare form of lung cancer, that has a notoriously poor prognosis depending on what stage to which cancer has progressed. Fortunately, a grant from the National Cancer Institute of 10.7 million dollars has been given to the University of Pennsylvania’s Abramson Cancer Center where further research and development efforts will be made in lung cancer immunotherapy. This grant will support the center’sendeavors for the next five years, hopefully leading to a conclusive treatment that can rid the body of solid tumor cancer cells.
Another promising study is being conducted at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK). Researchers at MSK are actively pursuing a treatment involving CAR T-cell therapy, with ten of the twelve patients involved in the study suffering from malignant pleural mesothelioma. Of these twelve patients, five were noted to show tumor regression after analyzing their imaging scans and one patient has remained clinically well 8 months post-T-cell infusion.
While this is a small amount of sample data, these continued research efforts are necessary for foolproof treatments to be developed for those who are battling these difficult to treat forms of cancer.
The Future of Treatment
The field of oncology is becoming more advanced every single day. With serious amounts of funding being put into top clinical programs, the options for routes of treatment for cancer patients is only going to become more vast. While cancer is a difficult disease to treat altogether, the breakthroughs that occurring in this space provide a new sense of hope, and CAR T-cell therapy may be the forefront of how cancer can be solved once and for all.
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About The Author
This write-up was contributed to Credihealth by Charles MacGregor.
Author Bio: Charles MacGregor is a health advocate specializing in mesothelioma. He works to ensure everyone has access to information about the disease and supports the active research being conducted to find a cure.