What are car T cell therapies in cancer treatment, and why is there so much buzz about it nowadays?

For a long time, the cancer treatment universe was restricted to 4 modalities, in particular Surgery, Radiation, Chemotherapy and Targeted Drug Treatments. Of late, we have seen the expansion of a fifth front in the fight against cancer, called Immunotherapy. Researchers have been endeavoring to create approaches to prepare the human immune system to battle cancer cells, similar to how they eliminate germs in trifling issues such as the common cold.

When we become ill with the common cold, our immune system attacks the infectious germs and executes them, viably curing us. What is at work here are a sort of cells present in our blood called T-cells. T-cells have the one of a kind capacity to recognize affected cells, lock on to them and kill them.

In a CAR T-cell treatment, a patient’s T-cells are designed, so that they attach themselves to cancer cells and destroy them. Such T-cells are extracted from the patient’s own blood, and are built in a lab to identify particular proteins (or antigens) present inside cancer cells. Then, once these cells increase in adequate numbers, they are infused once more into the patient’s circulation system. Once in the body, they start targeting cancer cells.

The utilization of Car T-cell treatments had been constrained to clinical trials till recently. In these trials, numerous patients in advanced stages of cancer have encountered positive outcomes. Numerous such trials included patients experiencing advanced ALL (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia) with limited treatment alternatives. Most patients experienced 100% remission, and remained this way for prolonged periods of time. Comparable promising outcomes have been seen in the case of lymphoma patients. Some of these treatments have been approved for treatment in certain leukemias and few solid tumours.

While the symptoms of such medicines can be perilous, the medical science has developed practical protections against such impacts, with supportive treatments. Car T-cell treatments appear to have immense potential, however given the dynamic nature of cancer mutations, further investigation is required to standardize it and make it accessible to patients all around. Numerous labs around the globe are right now testing these treatments not only for blood cancer but also solid tumors, such as pancreatic and brain tumours. Given the measure of intrigue the field has produced among scientists around the world, it is likely that the following decade will be transformative in characterizing the cancer treatment paradigm.