Pioneering cancer therapy to be made available to NHS patients

A charity has welcomed news that a pioneering therapy that uses a patient’s own genetically modified cells to fight cancer will be made available to NHS patients.

Chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy (CAR-T) will be “one of the most innovative treatments that has ever been offered on the NHS”, according to NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens.

CAR-T works by taking some of a patient’s own immune cells (T cells) via a blood sample, and genetically modifying them in the lab so that they target and kill cancer cells, providing a personalised treatment for each patient.

The charity Bloodwise said the treatment has shown huge promise in clinical trials in people with blood cancer who fail to respond to other treatments.

Its director of research, Dr Alasdair Rankin, said: “This is a really positive step for some people living with cancer whose lives cannot be saved using the treatments doctors can already provide.

“We are confident that the first therapies to be approved for use by the NHS will be for patients with blood cancer, because that is where we have seen the first strong results in clinical trials.

“These have shown that CAR-T can offer a lifeline to some people with life-threatening forms of lymphoma, acute lymphoblastic leukaemia and other types of blood cancer.

“It’s important to recognise that this is just the beginning for a completely new type of cancer therapy.

“While it is an exciting time, even once the first therapies are approved, only a small number of people will be treated in this way at first and not unless other forms of effective cancer treatment have been shown not to work.

“However, we can expect to see CAR-T therapy develop significantly over the next decade.”

Mr Stevens announced the move at the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry’s annual conference in London on Thursday.

He said: “Preparations are under way to make CAR-T, one of the most innovative treatments that has ever been offered on the NHS, available to patients, but manufacturers need to set fair and affordable prices so treatments can be made available to all who need them.”

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