Immunotherapy drugs are considered the latest and greatest breakthrough in conventional cancer treatment. Chimeric antigen receptor technology (CAR-T) has raised a great deal of hope, and an equal measure of concern.
CAR-T involves genetically reengineering a patient’s immune cells to target tumor-associated antigens, thereby destroying the malignant cells.
Alas, while these therapies appear to be quite effective at attacking and destroying malignant cells, they can also take a toll on healthy tissues and organs, leaving many patients struggling for their lives, albeit for an entirely different reason.
There’s also another important issue at stake here. CAR-T cell therapies such as the one developed by Novartis (see below) have been granted PRIME1 (Priority Medicine) status by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
PRIME is similar to the Breakthrough Therapies program2 offered by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Both of these priority medicine programs aim to speed up approval of novel drugs in order to bring hope to patients for whom there is little or no hope.
While this is admirable, it’s also a slippery slope that can end up affecting people with non-lethal diseases as well — people who are NOT quite as keen on playing Russian roulette with their health for a chance of survival.