New York Times, October 18, 2017
Denise Grady

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The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved the second in a radically new class of treatments that genetically reboot a patient’s own immune cells to kill cancer.

The new therapy, Yescarta, made by Kite Pharma, was approved for adults with aggressive forms of a blood cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, who have undergone two regimens of chemotherapy that failed.

The treatment, considered a form of gene therapy, transforms the patient’s cells into what researchers call a “living drug” that attacks cancer cells. It is part of the rapidly growing field of immunotherapy, which uses drugs or genetic tinkering to turbocharge the immune system to fight disease. In some cases the treatments have led to long remissions.

“The results are pretty remarkable,” said Dr. Frederick L. Locke, a specialist in blood cancers at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, and a leader of a study of the new treatment. “We’re excited. We think there are many patients who may need this therapy.”

He added, “These patients don’t have other options.”

About 3,500 people a year in the United States may be candidates for Yescarta. It is meant to be given once, infused into a vein, and must be manufactured individually for each patient. The cost will be $373,000. [...]

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