Chimeric antigen receptor T cell therapy comes to clinical practice
Adoptive cellular therapy with chimeric antigen receptor T cells (car-ts) has recently received approval from Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration after remarkable and durable remissions were seen in children with recurrent or refractory leukemia and adults with non-Hodgkin lymphoma—responses that were so impressive that a shift in the paradigm of care has now occurred for children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
The concept behind car-t immunotherapy is that modification of a patient’s own T cells to facilitate their localization to the cancer cell, with subsequent activation of the T cell effector mechanism and proliferation, will result in targeted killing of cancer cells. The car-ts are a novel drug in that the starting material for the manufacture of the car-t product comes from the patient, whose viable T cells are then genetically modified. Thus, collaboration is needed between the pharmaceutical companies, which must meet good manufacturing standards for each patient’s unique product, and the treating sites. For regulators and health authorities, this new class of drugs requires new paradigms for assessment and approval. Treatments with car-ts require that institutions address unique logistics requirements and management of novel toxicities.
The Hospital for Sick Children has had early experience with both the licensing of clinical trials and the introduction of the first commercial product. Here, we provide an overview of basic concepts and treatment, with caveats drawn from what we have learned thus far in bringing this new therapy to the clinical front line.