Recently, there is a big news in the anti-cancer area that Novartis, the worldwide giant of phytomedicine industry, has made a huge breakthrough in cancer immunotherapy. Its immunotherapy CAR-T has been firstly approved by Food and Drug Administration as publicly-listed immunotherapy.
What is immunotherapy?
Immunotherapy is a new direction for tumor treatment in recent years and also one of the heated topics in the area of cancer research. Meanwhile, immunotherapy remains controversial due to its uncertain efficacy and side effects.
Over 30 years, immunotherapy treats immune system instead of the tumor itself. This kind of therapy uses body immune system to help fight tumor cells
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There are currently two major types of immunotherapy.
One is immune cell therapy, by which immune cells are taken from patients and incubated in vitro with featured tumor cells. Immune cells that are able to induce tumor cell death are reinjected into the body of the patients to fight tumor. Immunotherapy includes LAK，DC，CIK，DC-CIK，CAR-T，TCR-T，NK，CAR-NK. After decades of research, many of these therapies have already been abandoned except CAR-T and TCR-T, both of which induce tumor cell death by strengthening immune cell T.
The other is a kind of drug that blocks signals at the immunodetection point. The drug can lead to the invalidation of the cancer cell signals that weaken the immune system. Thus, immune cells escape from deception and keep attacking cancer cells. For example, antibody blocks CTLA-4 and PD-1 passage, which prevents immune cell T from being deceived by tumor cells and recovers its ability to recognize and fight tumor cells.
As firstly approved publicly-listed cancer immunotherapy, its efficacy is under the test
Immunotherapy has gone through a hard way to get publicly listed due to its uncertain efficacy and side effects. Novartis’s immunotherapy is something related to CAR-T.
CAR-T refers to chimeric antigen receptor T cell therapy, which reforms and strengthens T cell gene to improve its ability to recognize and fight tumor cells. This therapy makes success in leukemia treatment, while no successful cases in tumor treatment are found. Healthy tissues contain protein that can be recognized by CAR-T. Therefore, CAR-T cells attack tumor cell as well as healthy tissues.
Novartis has made a huge breakthrough in immunotherapy area as they found a way to increase CAR-T cell recognition to tumor without injuring healthy tissues.
Although the clinical trial shows that immunotherapy greatly meet patients’ satisfaction, the efficacy examination needs to go through multiple difficulties until it is tested on more people after it is publicly listed.
In addition, the high price provides an obstacle for those who hold out hope on immunotherapy. Experts estimate that the expense of taking immunotherapy exceeds $10 every year. Adding drug expense, it will cost almost $20 every year.