CAR-T Cell Therapy: Could our own cells be the cure for cancer?

Advances in genetic studies are creating new hope in cancer treatment. The methods developed have become applicable in humans. So, what is CAR-T cell therapy? We were guests of a center working in this field.

According to the World Health Organization, 10 million people died of cancer worldwide in 2020, and about one in six deaths occurred due to cancer.

New method against cancer: CAR-T cell therapy

CAR-T cell therapy is being seen as a groundbreaking method in the fight against cancer. Many centers in the world and in Türkiye continue to work to develop this treatment, and Üsküdar University Transgenic Cell Technologies Center (TRGENMER) is one of them.

TRGENMER Director Dr. Cihan Taştan said, "Instead of the classical chemotherapy medications used against cancer for many years, the methods we call smart drugs or living drugs have been developed with the development of genetic studies. These methods have become applicable to humans in recent years by obtaining FDA or EMA approval.".

Personalized cancer treatment

Taştan says the following about the CAR-T cell therapy they have developed:

"The Car-T cell therapy we have developed against cancer is personalized and has the ability to recognize and kill cancer cells. It has the potential to kill the patient's entire cancer cells at once due to its more specific, targeted killing than conventional cancer treatments. This raises hope that the patient will be able to completely get rid of cancer."

How is CAR-T cell therapy applied?

CAR-T cells are actually genetically modified immune system cells. We talk to Taştan about how this method is applied. The broadest framework that emerges is as follows:

Healthy immune cells in people's bodies are taken: T cells are separated, the cells are genetically developed, T cells, which have been genetically modified and have now become living drugs, are multiplied and given to the patient. Then, the CAR-T cells start their job.

In which types of cancer can it be applied?

CAR-T cell therapy can be applied to dozens of different types of cancer. Taştan explains:

"The medication approved in the first stage were developed on hematological cancers, which we can call blood cancer.  More than 80 percent and sometimes up to 100 percent success rates were achieved on hematological cancers.

The first hero of CAR-T cell therapy technology is a lady named Emily. Although this lady has received many classic treatment methods, such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, she is now receiving CAR-T cell therapy and has been living completely cancer free for 10 years, while all hope has been lost in the final stage. Already with this study, smart living drugs have started to be developed in dozens of different types of cancer all over the world."

Taştan and his team are working on many types of cancer, especially blood cancer:

"The first soldier cells that we developed as a laboratory are against what we call acute lymphoblastic leukemia, ALL blood cancer type. Apart from that, we have developed new genetic designs especially for diseases, such as solid tumor cancers, glioma, brain cancers. These will be new treatment methods that will enter the clinic one after the other."

Increasing the memory of the cell

One of the main goals is that cancer does not recur in the studies conducted. Therefore, the 'memory cell potential' is increased in the developed cells.

"We can normally produce soldier cells and we know clearly we can kill cancer cells. When giving these cells to the patient, we paid attention to the fact that they were both soldiers and memory cells. Thus, after completely eradicating the cancer from the patient in the early stages, we intend to create a patient potential that has been cleared of cancer for many years by increasing the memory cell potential so that the patient does not receive a treatment again in the following years."

Clinical trials will begin in July 2023

Taştan says that after a year of study, they were able to kill cancer cells clearly by producing smart, living cells. The second phase of the study is being applied on animals. The third phase will begin in 2023:

"We are planning the third phase in July 2023. We will enter the clinical stages and enter a period in which Turkey can use smart living drugs, that is, what we call CAR-T cells, in certain types of cancer."

Why is it important to produce this treatment in Türkiye? Taştan explains:

"In Türkiye, especially genetically transmitted diseases are very numerous. Cancer is one of them. they buy the equivalents of these treatments at prices up to millions of dollars in abroad. We are able to make them much cheaper and promise to apply them to patients. This will make Türkiye one of the leading countries in the field of health, personalized treatment and genetic therapies in the coming years."


Üsküdar News Agency (ÜNA)