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Science Fiction becomes reality – CAR T cells and the transformation of medicine

News   •   Jun 24, 2019 11:08 UTC

Gunilla Enblad presenting during the popular event Efter Jobbet.

Efter Jobbet 

Harvesting human cells are not easy. The scientists started harvesting T cells from people several years ago, then genetically altering them, to add chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) that specifically recognizes cancer cells and then infuse the resulting CAR-T cells into patients to attack their tumors. Immunotherapy nowadays breaks skeptical thinking not so long time ago, when it was considered to be pure science fiction. Now, the method belongs to the hot areas in medical research and healthcare. The area is so groundbreaking that it was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2018.

What is happening with the promising game-changer of the future? And most importantly, what are the challenges that the modern immune-oncology faces today in Sweden, and globally. Enchanting presentation by Gunilla Enblad, professor at Department of Immunology, Genetics and Pathology, Experimental and Clinical Oncology at Uppsala University during the Uppsala BIOs popular event Efter Jobbet. 

Over 50 participants got a glimpse of the future of medicine during the casual gathering at Hubben, in Uppsala and had a great opportunity to learn, ask questions and challenge themselves while presentation revealed the outcomes from research and hands-on experiences regarding CAR T cells.

Gunnila Enblad explained that the new drugs will not save all patients, but they confirm the great success in the field of immune-oncology and they are a huge inspiration for continued research. The method has a great success rate and has proved to be effective in 80 % of the treated patients, but the long-term cure is 40%. The remaining 20 % still face adverse effects and the scientists try to tackle the reason or triggers behind this. It is still a fascinating outcome and the research continues to dazzle both the scientists and the general public.

Two drugs are approved for the treatment of acute lymphocytic leukemia, in children and adolescents up to 25 years of age and lymphoma. The dose of cautiousness is needed about registering CAR-T for adults with ALL because of the belief that the side effects can be worse in adults.

The most important outbreak in the resent research is that CAR-T method can become relevant also in other tumor forms.

Gunilla Enbland predicts that In myeloma, based on the large studies with good results there may be an indication within a year. Research is also ongoing on early stages of glioma, melanoma, ovarian cancer, and other solid tumors. These are powerful immunological processes involved. According to the professor what slows down in many other tumor forms is the so-called antigen specificity. The new thinking is that the new drugs are not directed against the tumor but against the immune cells with several successful stories without severe side effects. The future is here to come, and the method of CAR T cells is here to stay. It remains to be patient and eager to know what is next on the topic.

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