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CAR-T therapy approved for Scottish lymphoma patients

The Bloodwise logo. Bloodwise appears in black text against a white background
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Updated 09 Sep 2019

A ground-breaking treatment that can offer long-term remission and potentially a cure for people with one of the most common types of blood cancer has been made available in Scotland.

The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) has ruled that adults with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) can access the CAR-T therapy, Kymriah, on the NHS. Around 500 people in Scotland are diagnosed with this type of blood cancer each year.

People with DLBCL who don’t respond to current treatments or relapse after initially doing well have a poor chance of survival, but clinical trials have found that Kymriah can potentially cure four out 10 of these patients.

CAR-T therapy works by modifying the patient’s own immune cells in a laboratory before they are put back into their blood stream to recognise, seek out and kill cancer cells.

The blood cancer charity Bloodwise funds research into CAR-T therapy and has been campaigning for it to be made available to adults in Scotland.

Momentous news 

Dr Alasdair Rankin, Director of Research, Policy and Support at Bloodwise, said: “This is momentous news for patients in Scotland with this type of blood cancer. While CAR-T therapy sadly won’t work for everyone, it has been proven to save lives.

“It’s heart-breaking for patients, and their families, to be told that nothing more can be done to save them. Now CAR-T offers a lifeline to those who have run out of all other treatment options. Everyone involved in making this therapy available in Scotland deserves a lot of credit.”

Many people diagnosed with DLBCL can be treated very effectively with current available treatments, which will remain the first form of treatment for everyone with DLBCL. Today’s announcement will allow adults with DLBCL who don’t respond or relapse after two rounds of treatment to be treated with CAR-T therapy.

Equal access for patients across the UK

Kymriah has been available to DLBCL patients in England since February, but the SMC initially turned down its use in Scotland in March.  Kymriah’s manufacturer, the pharmaceutical company Novartis, submitted a new application to get the therapy approved.

Another type of CAR-T therapy for people with relapsed DLBCL, called Yescarta, is also being reappraised by the SMC after being turned earlier this year.

The SMC had already approved the use of Kymriah in February to treat children with leukaemia who relapse after two types of treatment.

Find out more about CAR-T therapy

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