Science & Technology

Brazil achieves new cancer success story with CAR T-cell therapy

Sao Paulo, Jun 7 (EFE).- Brazil has scored a new victory in its use of cancer-fighting CAR T-cell therapy, achieving complete leukemia remission in a patient who underwent that treatment as part of a publicly funded study.

Paulo Peregrino, 61, happily shows off two MRI scans of his torso, one result littered with dark spots that indicated advanced-stage lymphoma and another taken just one month later that was completely free of cancerous cells.

Speaking to Efe at an apartment in Sao Paulo where he is living temporarily while he remains under medical observation, he said he resorted to what is still an experimental treatment in Brazil because he felt “he had no other option.”

Peregrino has now put behind him 13 years of hospital stays, first for prostate cancer that appeared in 2013 and later for the lymphoma that emerged in 2018 and persisted in spite of chemotherapy and a bone-marrow transplant.

He now is making plans for his birthday in November, when he intends to celebrate having defeated his lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system) and a septicemia infection that had put him back in intensive care following the chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy.

Peregrino is among a group of 14 patients who have been treated since 2019 in connection with experimental studies on CAR T-cell therapy, which the Ribeirao Preto Hemocenter Foundation of the University of Sao Paulo, in collaboration with other public institutions, has carried out with public funding.

Of the 14 patients, the vast majority achieved full or very significant remission of their tumors and only two died, results that were very similar to those in other places – including the United States and Europe – where that therapy has been applied, according to Dr. Vanderson Rocha, the hematologist who treated Peregrino.

The director of the Hemocenter Foundation, Dimas Covas, told Efe that the treatment was entirely developed in Brazil, without any links to other countries’ patents or commercial processes.

The goal is to ensure that the therapy is more accessible and can be offered via the public health system.

The next step will occur in the second half of the year, when a broader clinical study will be launched involving nearly 80 patients.

The Hemocenter Foundation, meanwhile, also is collaborating with other institutions, including the Sao Paulo-based Instituto Butantan biologic research center, to expand CAR T-cell production capacity.

A new manufacturing unit that is already operational but is not yet in the production stage has the capacity to manufacture 300 treatments annually, although plans are to expand capacity further to meet expected demand, Covas said.

Researchers stress that the therapy for now is only effective in treating leukemias and B-cell lymphomas and only is recommended in cases in which traditional therapies, such as chemotherapy and bone-marrow transplants, have failed.

CAR T-cell therapy has an elevated cost of 2 million reais (around $406,000), but Paulo Peregrino and other beneficiaries of the Hemocenter Foundation’s publicly funded program have not had to pay anything.

The technique consists of using CARs (chimeric antigen receptors) to engineer the patient’s T-cells, or lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell, to identify, attach to and destroy rapidly dividing cancerous B cells.

Those cancerous cells often look like normal, healthy cells, and so T-cells do not attack them unless reprogrammed to do so.

Covas explained that CAR T-cell therapy is seen by many experts as a potential “new frontier in cancer treatment,” adding that in the future it will not only be used to stop lymphomas but also could be applied to other types of cancers such as breast or intestinal cancer.

Such a development would constitute a “major revolution” in cancer treatment, he said. EFE


Related Articles

Back to top button