Ninety percent of patients with multiple myeloma go into remission thanks to an experimental therapy created at Israel’s Hadassah-University Medical Center.
The second-most prevalent hematological condition, multiple myeloma cancer, has been treated with “exceptional success,” according to the Hadassah-University Medical Center in Ein Kerem, Jerusalem.
It makes up about one percent of all cancers and one-tenth of blood cancers.
The previously thought to be incurable illness is now being successfully treated thanks to a number of studies conducted in the hospital’s bone marrow and immunotherapy division in the last few years.
Head of the department Prof. Polina Stepansky says that “We have a waiting list of over 200 patients from Israel and various parts of the world at any given time. Now, in light of the impressive results of CAR-T treatments, it seems that they have many more years to live – and with an excellent quality of life.”
The procedure, which is rooted in genetic engineering technology, offers patients whose life expectancy would only be 2 years until a few years prior, an efficient and groundbreaking new option.
Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-Cell Therapy, also referred to as CAR-T, is a genetic engineering technique that stimulates one’s immune system to eradicate the cancer.
According to the oncologists, over 90 percent of the 74 patients who had treatment at Hadassah entered full remission.
“We have a waiting list containing more than 200 patients from Israel and various parts of the world at any given time. Due to the complexity of the production and the complexity of the treatment itself, only one patient a week enters the treatment, which is still being conducted as an experiment,” said Stepansky.
Professor Yechezkel Barenholz, a pioneer in cancer research and director of the lab studying membranes and liposomes at Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School, believes that the CAR-T technology is a significant advancement that will make both diagnosis and therapy simpler and easier for cancer patients everywhere.
Professor Cyrille Cohen, director of the immunology and immunotherapy laboratory at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, and Hadassah worked together to design and manufacture the CAR-T cell therapy.
Stepansky went on to add that “We have evidence of a very positive overall response rate with minimal side effects, and they are mild. These are dramatic results. This is a huge hope for patients with a disease that has not yet had a cure.”
In the upcoming months, the experimental therapy will also be made available across the US.
Bone marrow cancer is a form of cancer that includes multiple myeloma, which was given its name because cancer frequently spreads to multiple body parts, including the skull, pelvis, ribs, and spine.
Frequently, it is presumed or identified during a standard blood or urine test.
Myeloma may not initially show any signs, but as it progresses, it can result in a broad range of issues, such as chronic bone pain, anemia-related weakness, shortness of breath, and exhaustion.
Furthermore, it can also cause high blood calcium levels which can cause symptoms like excessive thirst, stomach discomfort, frequent urination, disorientation, and constipation, weight loss, impaired vision, headaches, recurring infections, bruises, irregular bleeding, and weak bones.
People over 60 years old are more likely to get the condition.
Men are more likely to develop the disease than women are, and those with a family history of it are more likely to have it diagnosed beyond the age of 70 than before.
Stepansky said that the American company “Immix Bio has acquired a patent license, and we are about to open a clinical trial in the US. The plan is to reach commercialization and FDA approval as a drug within a year.”
Several decades ago, the immunology department under Prof. Zelig Eshhar developed the revolutionary concept of using immune system cells to combat cancer cells.
Stepansky has since led the development of CAR-T therapies, the goal of which is to reprogram the patient’s white blood cells using healthy immune cells.
The T cells are capable of fighting tumors on their own, and are isolated as part of the treatment.
Apheresis, which separates the red and white blood cells from donated blood components, is used to accomplish this.
It resembles a typical blood donation and takes 2-4 hours.
The T cells are then created in the laboratory, which was created expressly for this project, in clean rooms in accordance with the highest international standards.
The next phase involves performing a genetic engineering method by including a virus and a genetic segment that conveys a receptor against cancer cells.
The patient is then given a large injection of engineered cells. In the end, the cancer is eliminated by the modified T cells’ targeting of the tumors.
Up until now, only China and the US have been able to offer this extremely rare procedure, which costs close to $400K per patient.
According to the expert, “Only 20 percent of those who need to receive it in these countries actually get it. With the development led by the researchers at our Danny Cunniff Leukemia Research Laboratory, we were able to reduce the price dramatically and make the treatment affordable and accessible. Moreover, Hadassah developed a more sophisticated and advanced treatment than that offered in the world. As the first and only institution in Israel that develops, manufactures and delivers CAR-T treatment, Hadassah is actually leading the field that will enable the development of future treatments with CAR T cells for the benefit of patients with other types of cancer.”