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Pioneering blood cancer treatment to be approved for use across Europe

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29 Jun 2018

The chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy (CAR-T) drugs Yescarta and Kymriah were recommended to be licensed recently by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for the treatment of a number of types of blood cancer, including childhood leukaemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

> Explainer: what is CAR-T therapy, and how does it work?

CAR-T cell therapies involve immune cell samples being taken from the patient and genetically modified in a laboratory to recognise, seek out and kill cancer cells, before being put back into the patient’s blood system.  They have shown huge promise in clinical trials around the world in people with blood cancer who fail to respond to other treatments, and are already available for use in the United States.

CAR-T therapy is designed to be a one-off treatment. Because the body will always retain a number of white blood cells that recognise cancer cells as harmful, patients are theoretically given a life-long ‘immunity’.

Yescarta and Kymriah are currently being assessed by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) for use on the NHS in England. A decision on both drugs is expected in the coming months.

Dr Alasdair Rankin, Director of Research and Patient Experience at Bloodwise, said: “The development of CAR-T therapy is one of the most promising advances in blood cancer treatment in decades, and while it would initially only be offered to patients who have run out of other options, it offers the genuine chance of a cure for these patients.

“This decision means that one of the most exciting types of blood cancer treatment we’ve ever seen has taken another step towards becoming available on the NHS. The next step is for NICE to decide whether to make these treatments available and then for the NHS to get the complex infrastructure in place that CAR-T relies on.”

NICE is currently assessing the use of Yescarta for the treatment of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), mediastinal B-cell lymphoma and follicular lymphoma and Kymriah for the treatment of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) and DLBCL. ALL is the most common form of childhood cancer and DLBCL is the most common type of lymphoma.

> Learn more about how CAR-T therapy works

NICE's decision on the use of both drugs is expected towards the end of 2018, and we'll post further updates as they happen.