Cancer Immunotherapy Approach Targets Common Genetic Alteration

There are two CAR T medications available, including Axicabtagene ciloleucel (Yescarta) and Tisagenlecleucel (Kymriah)

cancer immunotherapy
Cancer immunotherapy approach. Pixabay

By Blake Jones

Researchers have found a prototype for a new kind of immunotherapy for cancer. This therapy uses modified T-cells to target and attack cancer cells while keeping the healthy cells in the body protected. 

Genes have two copies or alleles; one allele is inherited from each parent. The genetic alteration associated with cancer involves the loss of one of these gene alleles. This copy loss, called Loss of heterozygosity (LOH), is one of the most common genetic events that take place in cancer. 

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The novel cancer immunotherapy approach turns this missing gene allele into an immune-cell activating signal. Immunotherapy and the ability to produce modified T-cells (CAR T-cells) have made it possible to specifically target LOH with genetically modified T-cells.

Keep reading to learn how the novel cancer immunotherapy approach targets common genetic alteration to treat different types of cancer. Despite being an effective option, this cancer immunotherapy may not be viable for a vast majority of cancer patients. Work with your doctor to find out whether you can consider the novel cancer immunotherapy or CAR T-cell therapy. 

How Does CAR T-cell Therapy Work?

There are two CAR T medications available, including Axicabtagene ciloleucel (Yescarta) and Tisagenlecleucel (Kymriah). Regardless of which medicine you receive or the types of cancer you have, these treatments work in a similar way.

cancer immunotherapy
How CAR T-cell Therapy Works? Pixabay

Since CAR T-cell therapy can sometimes lead to serious or even life-threatening side effects, it is only done at a very few special cancer centers. 

The CAR T-cell therapy involves the following steps:

  • Evaluation

Doctors will conduct a series of tests and screenings to find out whether CAR T-cell therapy is a suitable treatment option for you.

  • T-cell Collection

The doctor uses a special machine to collect T-cells from your body through a process called leukapheresis. In this, two intravenous lines will be connected in your arms. One IV transmits your blood to the machine, and the other one returns blood back to your body. 

The process isn’t painful but may take a couple of hours. You can choose to sit on a reclining chair or lie on a bed while you have it. You can read books, work on your laptop, listen to music, or do any other activities to pass the time. 

  • T-cell Modification

The extracted T-cells are sent to a laboratory, where a new gene is added to them. This makes special protein cells grow on their surface. These are called chimeric antigen receptors (CARs), which allow the T-cells to recognize and attach to antigens or cancer cells. 

cancer immunotherapy
CAR T-cell therapy can sometimes lead to serious or even life-threatening side effects. Pixabay

Millions of these modified cells are produced in the laboratory that is now termed “CAR T-cells.” This process takes a couple of weeks, although the time could be different for different individuals. 

  • Low-dose Chemo

While you await the cells to grow, your doctor could provide you with low-dose chemo for a couple of days to reduce other immune cells in the body. Some doctors generally refer to it as “Lymphodepleting chemotherapy.” With less competition, the new CAR T-cells would be able to do their job well and kill cancer cells.

  • Reinfusion

The new CAR T-cells are frozen and dispensed to the hospital or cancer treatment center where you are being treated. They are infused again into your body intravenously, like in the case of blood transfusion.

It is done with the aim that the CAR T-cells will now do a commendable job recognizing your cancer cells. Once they start attacking it, they will multiply so that more cancer cells could be found and attacked.

  • Recovery

To recover from CAR T-cell therapy, it would take about 2-3 months. After you leave the hospital, make sure that you stay close to the cancer treatment center at least for the first month to allow your doctor to look for any side effects.

cancer immunotherapy
To recover from CAR T-cell therapy, it would take about 2-3 months. Pixabay

Appoint a caregiver with you for help needed to accomplish everyday tasks. In case of any complications, kindly get back to the hospital without delay as some serious side effects of CAR T-cell therapy can cost your life.

What Are The Common Side Effects Of CAR T-cell Therapy?

The patients can experience some of the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath
  • Seizures
  • Confusion
  • Low blood pressure
  • Joint and muscle aches

ALSO READ: Blood Cancer Risk Higher Than Expected In Kids

What Types Of Cancers Does CAR T-cell Therapy Treat?

The FDA has approved the use of CAR T-cell therapy for adults with a few types of blood cancers, such as:

  • Primary mediastinal B-cell lymphoma, aggressive, relapsed, or refractory diffuse large B cell lymphoma, high-grade B-cell lymphoma, transformed follicular lymphoma, and mantle cell lymphoma
  • Relapsed or refractory multiple myeloma
  • Relapsed or refractory follicular lymphoma

Additionally, CAR T-cell therapy is approved for patients with relapsed or refractory acute lymphoblastic leukemia up to the age of 25 years. Talk to your doctor to determine if you are eligible to get CAR T-cell therapy.

(Disclaimer: The article is sponsored and hence, promotes some commercial links.)