New developments are taking place in the field of cancer treatment, and that could mean good news for patients who battle specific forms of refractive or relapsed cancers. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration recently approved Breyanzi, a CAR-T therapy, from Bristol Myers Squibb, for use as a second-line therapy in the treatment of large B-cell lymphoma. Before this latest approval, Breyanzi was only available after several other forms of treatment proved unsuccessful. But with this newest decision, patients not only benefit from the advantages of Breyanzi much earlier, but more patients are now eligible to receive treatment. This decision echoes one made by the FDA earlier this year, regarding Yescarta, a similar type of cancer treatment developed by Gilead.
What Is Breyanzi?
Breyanzi is a type of CAR-T cell therapy that uses a patient’s own healthy white blood cells to fight off the ravages of cancer. Currently, it takes between 24 and 33 days for Bristol Myers Squibb to create the Breyanzi treatment. This is because each dose requires the harvesting of healthy cells from the patient. The harvested cells are then modified in a laboratory setting to contain a chimeric antigen receptor, or CAR. Once the cells have been modified, they’re grown and multiplied until enough are available to be reinfused back into the patient. Once back in circulation, the modified cells attach to cancerous cells and blast them with deadly cytotoxins.
The treatment is costly, upwards of $410,000 exactly, but it has shown great promise. Clinical trials proved the treatment reduced instances of cancer progression, the need for continued treatment, or death by a whopping 65 percent in patients who received Breyanzi.
What Does This Mean for Cancer Patients?
Breyanzi and Yescarta are now available for use much earlier in the treatment cycle. Before these new approvals, doctors were restricted from offering Breyanzi and Yescarta until multiple other treatments had been tried and proven unsuccessful. Now, they’re both available as second-line options for patients with treatment-resistant, large B-cell lymphoma. This means shortened treatment times, shorter hospital stays, and better prognoses for these patients. It also widens the pool of patients who are able to receive the treatment.
Where Can You Find Breyanzi and Yescarta?
For the most part, treatments such as these are available only at research hospitals, which means patients may have to travel long distances to be treated. They must then remain close to the treatment center for a period of up to four weeks following. But efforts are underway to improve the production time, the availability, and the scope of CAR-T therapy treatments. And researchers remain optimistic regarding the future of CAR-T therapy and what secrets it may hold.
Car-T therapy is relatively new and has only been approved to treat specific forms of cancers since 2017. Approvals began with clinical trials to treat acute lymphoblastic leukemia and have progressed since. Every new approval to treat every new type of cancer is a triumph for scientists and for the patients who battle the most treatment-resistant forms of this debilitating disease.