Blood cancers: first 100 patients treated with CAR-T, life-saving therapies

Blood cancers: The future and current perspectives of humanity’s first anti-cancer gene therapy. The event at the National Cancer Institute of Milan celebrates the good results (also of the Health Service). Heal people who had little left to live.

A message of hope for all cancer patients, especially those with a difficult-to-treat hematological neoplasm, and a beautiful story that demonstrates the great value of the Italian health system. 

The first times

Blood cancers: At the center of the meeting, held on Friday morning at the IRCCS National Cancer Institute (Int) Foundation in Milan, the first 1oo patients treated with  Car-T therapy, which is a few years changed the prospects for patients with blood cancers incurable,

who had not been able to get results with all the other treatments available, and who can now be able to heal and fully recover your life.

Blood cancers:

“Our hospital has had a pioneering role in treatments with CAR-T cells have been the first center in Italy in 2017 to use them for adult oncohematological patients – recalls the director of hematology of the Institute in via Venezian and organizer of the event Paolo Corradini, professor of hematology at the University of Milan.

Blood cancers: Today they are part of the routine strategies used in just about 30 centers within the National Health System. And today’s meeting has a symbolic value, to celebrate the milestone of the first 100  adult patients treated with CAR-T at Int, but it is also an important moment of reflection to make people understand how great the value of our universal health system is.

What is CAR-T

Blood cancers: Targeted, personalized, effective: CAR-T therapies turn 10 years after their first test on a patient (a girl in the USA) in 2022, and today they are an opportunity for an increasing number of patients.

Thanks to the results obtained even in complex cases, they have raised great hopes, but it is a therapeutic option to be “handled with care”: side effects (which can be very serious, even lethal) are managed better and better, but centers and highly skilled staff.

The technique consists in taking, in a simple way, from the blood of the individual patient his T lymphocytes, the “soldiers” of our immune system responsible for defending us from disease, who are no longer able to fight against cancer, to strengthen them in the laboratory. Blood cancers:

With genetic engineering techniques, T lymphocytes induce  (through the introduction of the CAR receptor, which stands for chimeric antigen receptor )  the ability to specifically recognize and kill cancer cells. 

Blood cancers: Thus reworked and strengthened, the lymphocytes are reinfused into the patient and begin their battle against cancer. A fight that, if successful, leads to definitive healing for people who had little left to live.  

What types of tumors are used for

Currently in Italy CAR-T are authorized by Aifa (therefore reimbursed by the NHS) for patients with relapsed or refractory diffuse large B cell lymphoma to two or more lines of therapy;

pediatric and adult patients up to 25 years of age with refractory B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, in post-transplant or second or subsequent relapse;

Blood cancers

patients with primary large B-cell mediastinal lymphoma; patients with Epstein-Barr virus-related large B-cell lymphoma relapsed or refractory to two or more lines of therapy. “It is humanity’s first anti-cancer gene therapy and  we are now learning how to use it better- Corradini specifies -:

on the one hand, against types of tumors other than those we already treat today, on the other hand in association with drugs or before transplantation or when the patient has a relapse.

It is a complex and extremely expensive therapy, but it can make a huge difference to patients who have not benefited from all other treatments.

Ours is the largest case history recorded in our country and our thanks also go to the 100 patients who had the courage to join a therapy that was still experimental only a few years ago “.

Every year about 30 thousand Italians fall ill with blood cancer and the number of diagnoses is destined to increase together with the general aging of the population, given that these are typical pathologies of advanced age.

Future applications

«An innovation becomes such only when it is accessible to all – underlines Giovanni Apolone, scientific director of the Milanese Cancer Institute -.

Therefore, in addition to making these technologies available to other types of patients, and in particular to those with solid tumors, we must do everything possible to ensure full availability to all patients eligible for treatment and to eliminate possible barriers and obstacles.

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To proceed with scientific research and not to discriminate, therefore, a great deal of attention is needed to the problem of appropriateness and sustainability in the context of our universalistic system “.

The data presented during the event highlight that half of the patients who were candidates for hospice are still alive two years after CAR-T therapy.for end-stage care before receiving the innovative treatment.

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“It took over 25 years of intense research work to get to see the first results with the CAR-T 10 years ago, but now there is no doubt about the extent of their value – concludes Franco Locatelli, president of the Superior Health Council. -.

It is a real revolution in medicine, which has opened up scenarios that are not even imaginable just five years ago. The challenge for the future lies in the possibility of extending their use to other hematological and solid neoplasms, also guaranteeing their sustainability and wide application to a large number of patients.

In this perspective, academic institutions can play a fundamental role, as demonstrated by our Institute, the Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital, which has already activated four trials, two of which in patients with solid neoplasms “.

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