New buzz about immunotherapy – A Canadian perspective with Dr. John Bell

By: Kelly Crowe and the CBC Health Unit, CBC News
Hopes for a new cancer therapy
Through the simple act of voting Yes, an expert committee of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration created a buzz this week among biotech watchers and cancer scientists.
The influential advisory group gave unanimous approval for a new form of cancer therapy called chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy (CAR-T). If the FDA gives final approval in the fall, it will be the first time this form of immunotherapy will be commercially available to patients. So far it’s only been tried in formal clinical trial settings.
“I think in the field everybody is very excited that this is moving forward, but it’s not without challenges,” said John Bell, at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. He’s the scientific director of a Canadian network of researchers studying novel cancer therapies including CAR-T.

‘We’re not there yet, but the only way to get there is to have trials like these open in Canada.’
– John Bell, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute

“From a Canadian perspective we still don’t really have access to this. We’re working to try to get CAR-T therapy going in Canada as soon as possible.”
CAR-T therapy is not a drug. It’s part of a new generation of highly personalized treatments. It requires intensive engineering of a patient’s white blood cells, which are extracted and then genetically modified to carry a specific receptor that will bind to cancer cells. The reprogrammed immune cells are infused back into the body to find and destroy the cancer.
Read the full CBC News article here.