The four pillars of cancer treatment have always been surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and targeted therapy. Recently, there have been developments leading to what scientists and medical professionals are referring to as the fifth pillar — immunotherapy.
Immunotherapy, or therapy that utilizes a patient’s own immune system to help illnesses, has been proven to be an effective treatment against cancer. Most recently, a type of immunotherapy called CAR T-cell therapy has had tremendous success in the treatment of certain cancer patients.
What is CAR T-cell Therapy?
CAR T-cell therapy is a type of adoptive cell therapy (ACT), which collects and utilizes a patient’s own immune cells to fight their cancer. As the name suggests, CAR T-cell therapy is dependent upon a patient’s T-cells, which play a critical role in managing the immune response and killing cells affected by harmful pathogens. These pathogens have unique antigens and T-cells are genetically equipped with receptors designed to identify and eliminate them. CAR T-cell therapy harnesses the antigen-fighting power of T-cells and reengineers them to target and kill cancerous cells.
How Does CAR T-cell Therapy Work?
The CAR T-cell therapy process begins with drawing blood from patients and separating out the T-cells. The T-cells are then genetically engineered to produce and develop special receptors called chimeric antigen receptors, or CARs. These synthetic molecules allow the T-cells to identify and then attach themselves to a specific antigen in cancerous cells. Once the cells have been collected and equipped with their antigen-fighting receptors, they are then expanded and reproduced in the millions. The final step is the infusion of the CAR T-cells into the patient, and if all goes well, the cells continue to multiply, and then find and kill cancer cells.
CAR T-cell Therapy Successes
For decades, CAR T-cell therapy has been restricted to small clinical trials, but in recent years, it has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for two cancer treatments. In 2017, the FDA approved the therapy to treat children with the most common cancer, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). It was also approved for the treatment of adults with Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma (DLBCL). The therapy has been shown to be highly effective in the treatment of these cancers, with an overall patient response rate of 83 percent. In July of 2020, the FDA also granted rapid approval of CAR T-Cell therapy for adults with mantle cell lymphoma (MCL). Clinical trials are also underway for the use of CAR T-cell therapy for diseases other than cancer, such as fibrotic liver disease and diabetes.
CAR T-cell Therapy Challenges
The advances and successes of CAR T-cell therapy have been enough to motivate the FDA to approve treatments in patients. However, since this therapy is still relatively new, it does face some significant challenges, such as a hostile tumor microenvironment (TME), T-cell exhaustion and T-cell proliferation. In addition, scientists and medical professionals are faced with the challenge of finding a way to manufacture high-quality, clinical-grade cell therapies at a large scale to make them available for as many patients as possible. Current methods of cell processing are manual and very time consuming, and very costly, presenting a tremendous challenge to large-scale production and distribution of potentially life-saving treatments.
How the CAR-TXpress™ Platform Can Help
The CAR-TXpress Platform is designed to automate many of the manual steps involved in cell processing. The multi-system package can provide a streamlined solution for cell processing, selection, washing and cryopreservation. It is a comprehensive, commercially viable, semi-automatic cellular manufacturing and control (CMC) solution for the development of CAR T-cell therapeutics. By eliminating the use of density gradient media for isolation and replacing magnetic bead-based systems used for selection procedures, the CAR-TXpress significantly reduces processing time and increases cell recoveries, which reduces the overall time and cost of manufacturing and thus increases the production and efficiency of high value samples.
ThermoGenesis Holdings Inc. (formerly Cesca Therapeutics Inc.), is a pioneer and market leader in the development and commercialization of automated cell processing technologies for the cell and gene therapy fields. We market a full suite of solutions for automated clinical biobanking, COVID-10 testing, point-of-care applications and large-scale cell processing and manufacturing with a special emphasis on the emerging CAR-T immunotherapy market. We are committed to making the world a healthier place by creating innovative solutions for those in need.
For more information on the CAR-TXpress multi-system platform, please contact our Sales team.