Doctor's Speak

Dr Maheboob Talks About The Latest Gene Therapy For Cancer Cure

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Amongst various types of blood cancer, Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is more common in children and young adults. 90% children are getting cures with chemotherapy alone. Very few which relapse, can also be salvaged by bone marrow transplantation (BMT). For other extreme cases, CAR-T cell therapy is the cure.

USFDA approval of CAR-T cell therapy

US Food and Drug Administration recently approved CAR-T cell therapy – the treatment that genetically engineers patients’ own blood cells into an army of assassins to seek and destroy childhood leukemia.

The CAR-T cell treatment is the first type of gene therapy to hit the US market and is aimed at patients with a common pediatric cancer – acute lymphoblastic leukemia – that strikes more than 3,000 children and young adults in the US each year. The therapy’s price is expected to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

CAR-T treatment uses gene therapy techniques to fix disease-causing genes. Researchers filter those cells from a patient’s blood, reprogram them to harbor a “antigen receptor” that zeroes in on cancer, and grow hundreds of millions of copies. Some of the most difficult tumors to be treated with CART-T cell therapy are as follows:

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML)

This type of leukemia is difficult one to treat. This requires intensive chemotherapy for 4 months. CAR-T cell therapy is also being tried in such patients who do not respond to chemotherapy. A lot of new drugs are being developed for such patients to offer cure.

Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML)

This type of blood cancer is relatively easy for patient and doctor. Just oral tablets cure such patients for long period of time. More than 90% patients survive for long period.

Chronic lymphatic leukemia (CLL)

It is a type of blood cancer which happens only in elderly patients and often there are no complaints. This is detected accidentally when patient goes for routine blood test and lymphocytosis is seen. Treatment often involves from just observation to aggressive chemo-immunotherapy.

About the author


Dr Maheboob M Basade is an accomplished Cancer Specialist in Mumbai. He currently serves as Head, Department of Medical Oncology at Saifee Hospital and Hon. Consultant Medical Oncologist at Jaslok Hospital. Dealing with chemotherapy and immunotherapy in haematological and non-haematological malignancies, he also established the unit of stem cell transplantation at the hospital, and performs autologous and allogeneic bone marrow / stem cell transplantation for various malignant and non-malignant disorders.

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