Pricey New Cancer Therapy Could Save Thousands

It's the 2nd treatment to turn cells into cancer-killers
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 19, 2017 1:05 AM CDT
Pricey New Cancer Therapy Could Save Thousands
In this May 2016 file photo provided by Kite Pharma, cell therapy specialists at the company's manufacturing facility in El Segundo, Calif. prepare blood cells from a patient to be engineered in the lab to fight cancer.   (Kite Pharma via AP, File)

The Food and Drug Administration has approved a second "living drug" to fight cancer—a personalized treatment that alters a patient's own cells to turn them into cancer-killers. The new "CAR T-cell therapy" has been approved for non-Hodkins lymphoma patients with few other treatment options, a group that could number around 3,500 per year, the Washington Post reports. But the innovative therapy won't come cheap: Forbes reports that the cost will be $373,000 per patient, not including the cost of treating side effects that could include dangerous fevers. A similar treatment approved for leukemia in July costs $475,000 per patient.

Doctors believe the new treatment, produced by Kite Pharma under the brand name Yescarta, could save thousands of lives, the New York Times reports. In the study that led to FDA approval, 54% of 101 patients went into complete remission, and 39% of the 101 were still in remission an average of 8.7 months later. "Today marks another milestone in the development of a whole new scientific paradigm for the treatment of serious diseases," FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement. "In just several decades, gene therapy has gone from being a promising concept to a practical solution to deadly and largely untreatable forms of cancer." (The fight against breast cancer is also making progress.)

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