CBS News reported today that the FDA has approved a new type of therapy that will treat pediatric patients with a specific form of leukemia. The therapy is called CAR – T therapy. The concept behind the therapy is that patients have blood with T cells removed from their bloodstream and sent to a factory in New Jersey. The factory uses a specific type of DNA gene therapy that enables the T cells to recognize leukemia cells. The genetically modified T cells are then infused back into the patient. So the therapy works like a living drug that is injected into the patient that goes out and attacks cancer cells.
The drug company, Novartis is working with doctors and their patients to deliver this new type of DNA therapy. So far, the therapy is producing some remarkable results by putting the cancer into remission.
Dr. David Agus, from USC’s Westside Cancer Center, was very excited about about the promise for this new therapy. In addition to the therapy itself, the doctor explained that Novartis had developed an innovative payment plan based on the value of the treatment. That is, if the therapy works for a certain amount of time then the patient would pay a fee. If the therapy does not work there is no charge. This innovative therapy and payment system costs about $495,000. Whereas this fee is very large, it compares to be far less than a bone marrow transplant, which costs about $800,000. Novartis said that this new therapy will be tested for other diseases in the near future starting with lymphoma and other similar cancers. Dr. Agus is hopeful that this therapy could be used to treat other diseases such as diabetes or other conditions.