India could help in making CAR-T cell therapies more broad based and accessible

Based on a latest statement made by American physicist and pioneer of CAR-T cell therapies Dr Carl June, India requires to boost breakthrough cancer therapies, owning to country’s potential to make CAR-T therapies more broad based.

At present there are no clinical trials on CAR-T in India and Latin America, as compared to over 600 trials with CAR-T cells in the world, out of which a majority, around 300 are carried out in China. The urgency of the situation was put forward by June especially due to the sizeable burden of diseases in the country. Sources however suggest that Indian firms are taking efforts into the direction.

Furthermore, June said India could be a substantial player in making CAR-T cells more accessible and broad-based. “The way India has worked on bone marrow transplantation that they have been able to do much more cheaper than the US but with just the same efficacy can come in handy,” he added. “What’s needed now is investment from venture capitalists, philanthropy, government investment and incentives, rest is all here in India,” underlining that medical infrastructure in India will further help support CAR-T cell therapy trials.

Novartis was one of the first companies to commercialize the drug Kymriah, which is used to treat acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). American Gilead is also gaining pace with CAR-T therapy Yescarta which is used to treat NHL.  Currently, CAR-T cell therapy is approved for the treatment of two forms of blood cancer- Leukemia and Lymphoma.

In the United States, where the therapy is approved, the treatment costs about over $1-1.5 million. According to Dr June, human labour costs the most in making CAR-T. He further added that the costs could be curbed ten-fold through automated therapy production with robots.

Dr June also states that advancing science in the future will revolutionize CAR-T therapy. We will eventually have both types of CAR-T,” one which will be the personalised therapy, where the patient themselves are the source of the drug. The second will be manufactured on lines, ‘off-the shelf’, that will not last as long in the patient body.

“The first patient we treated with CAR-T therapy in 2010 still has CAR-T cells in the body and it is functioning. So it is a living drug,” June added.

Based on reports, one or two US companies will get commercial approval for the treatment of myeloma through CAR-T cell therapies. Dr June optimistically proposes in the next five years all bone marrow cancers will have CAR-T cell therapies.