TUESDAY, Feb. 28, 2017 (HealthDay News) — An experimental gene therapy for aggressive non-Hodgkin lymphoma beat back more than a third of cancers that seemed untreatable, the therapy’s developers report.
Thirty-six percent of over 100 very ill lymphoma patients appeared disease-free six months after a single treatment, according to results released by the treatment’s maker, Kite Pharma of Santa Monica, Calif.
These patients had not responded to usual treatments and had no other options, Kite said Tuesday in a news release.
“This seems extraordinary … extremely encouraging,” one cancer specialist, Dr. Roy Herbst, told the Associated Press.
But Herbst, who is chief of medical oncology at Yale Cancer Center in New Haven, Conn., said longer follow-up is needed to see if the benefit continues.
Still, he said, “This certainly is something I would want to have available.” Side effects, which had been a concern, seemed manageable in this study, he said.
Lymphoma is a general term for cancers that begin in the lymph system. The lymph system is part of the immune system, which helps the body fight disease.
Here’s how the treatment works: A patient’s blood is filtered so immune cells called T-cells can be altered to contain a cancer-fighting gene. The cells are returned to the patient intravenously, and the cancer-targeting cells then multiply in the patient’s body.
The U.S. National Cancer Institute developed the gene approach and licensed it to Kite. Now, Kite and another pharmaceutical giant, Novartis AG, are competing to gain approval of the treatment, according to the AP.
Kite reportedly intends to seek U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval this spring and approval in Europe later this year. It could be the first gene therapy approved in the United States, the news report noted.