Friday, 1 December 2017

Revolutionary New Cancer Therapies Come With Big Risks

Cancer Therapies
Drug Makers Must Be Prepared As Revolutionary New Cancer Therapies Come With Big Risks 

Personalised cell therapy may have been established today with the authorization of two novel drugs recently called Kymriah and Yescarta that genetically modify the patient’s own immune cells to combat cancer. Still, pharmaceutical companies face many obstacles, which include many ethical
and social problems, if they want to make these cancer therapies a success.

These recent drugs, first of its type in the latest family CAR-T cell therapies, could transform the face of cancer therapies altogether. They function by separating immune cells called as T cells from a patient’s blood, and genetically engineer these cells to create receptors that identify particular tumor cells, producing many millions of replicas of these cells in a laboratory and then injecting them back into the patient. If everything goes well, these cells will identify and destroy the tumor cells in the patient.

Even though a few exciting clinical successes have been achieved, the companies manufacturing these drugs face a variety of problems. Business-wise, they have to figure out how to go into manufacturing of these drugs consistently and affordably, justifying the research through sufficient maintenance of reimbursements and persuade physicians to adopt this new and effective, yet complex treatment concept.

The need of the hour is to get these treatments perfected for patients who have no other alternative. CAR-T cancer therapies will, in all probability, kill some patients more quickly than their cancers would. So efforts need to be stepped up to reduce considerably the grave and occasionally fatal side effects that come along with these cancer therapies and strategies need to be developed to deal with them when they arise.

Companies that commercialise these cancer therapies must be ready for the possibilities of deaths and acute side effects to patients, physicians, regulators and investors. They must also be well prepared in advance to address such events promptly, clearly and realistically, whenever they occur. Also, necessary measures must be taken to create awareness among patients and their advocacy groups and emergency plans and communication strategies need to be developed.

While any demise due to medical reasons is dreadful, for few patients the possible benefit of CAR-T cancer therapies will be an advantage to that risk. This estimate will change quickly, however, as CAR-T cancer therapies will focus on patients with an initial stage cancer who have a wider set of alternatives. It may also be the same case for the society on a broader scale where undesirable events could hamper the development of CAR-T cancer therapies and curb their capabilities.

Despite many requests and pleas from individual patients and patient organisations to swiftly widen the range of use of CAR-T therapy and the huge financial opportunities and the pressures that come along with it, companies need to refuse to give in to the temptation of widening the CAR-T cancer therapies too far and fast. On the contrary, they should tune and tweak these potentially reliable therapies to be useful as a last-option solution for patients, maybe with some support from appropriate government agencies.

Even though it seems like the most common expectation, a slow and cautious approach to this new type of cancer therapies is probably the best shot in transforming personalised cell therapies into a well-known and efficient medical and financial success.

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