Living Drug

Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work

JULY 13, 2017

Yes, this is big news and a giant scientific achievement--but it is far from a universal cancer cure. The FDA yesterday recommended approval for a new Novartis cancer treatment/drug that uses a patient's own cell to fight cancer. It is a complicated process: cells are removed from a patient at a cancer center, frozen and shipped to Novartis where they are genetically altered, frozen, and shipped back. Then they are given to the patient. There have been long remissions and maybe even cures achieved in some children with leukemia, and the company is working to offer the treatment for other cancers.

Here is the catch: each cycle costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. If this is your child, it is worth every penny. As a country, we have to figure out how to pay for this.

From The New York Times:

F.D.A. Panel Recommends Approval for Gene-Altering Leukemia Treatment

A Food and Drug Administration panel opened a new era in medicine on Wednesday, unanimously recommending that the agency approve the first-ever treatment that genetically alters a patient’s own cells to fight cancer, transforming them into what scientists call “a living drug” that powerfully bolsters the immune system to shut down the disease.

If the F.D.A. accepts the recommendation, which is likely, the treatment will be the first gene therapy ever to reach the market. Others are expected: Researchers and drug companies have been engaged in intense competition for decades to reach this milestone. Novartis is now poised to be the first. Its treatment is for a type of leukemia, and it is working on similar types of treatments in hundreds of patients for another form of the disease, as well as multiple myeloma and an aggressive brain tumor.

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Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.
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