Tag: leukemia

Bioethics Blogs

Cross Post: FDA Approves First CAR-T Cell Therapy for Pediatric Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

Tremendous progress continues to be made against the Emperor of All Maladies, cancer. One of the most exciting areas of progress involves immunotherapy, a treatment strategy that harnesses the natural ability of the body’s own immune cells to attack and kill tumor cells. A lot of extremely hard work has gone into this research, so I was thrilled to learn that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just announced on August 30 its first approval of a promising type of immunotherapy called CAR-T cell therapy for kids and young adults with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL)—the most common childhood cancer in the U.S.

The post Cross Post: FDA Approves First CAR-T Cell Therapy for Pediatric Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia appeared first on Ampersand.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

The FDA Approves a Landmark Cancer Drug

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The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved a new therapy to treat leukemia in kids and young adults—a decision whose importance is as much symbolic as it is practical.

Kymriah, from the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis, is a cancer therapy that represents several things at once: a game-changing way to treat cancer through genetic engineering, a novel paradigm for the biotech business, and the latest turn in the debate over just how astronomically expensive a life-saving therapy can be.

Kymriah is strikingly effective for young patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or ALL, but it is far more involved than taking a pill or getting an infusion. It requires inserting a human-designed gene into a patient’s own T cells so they recognize and ferociously attack cancer cells. Researchers began modifying T cells for patients in the 1990s—and now the technology called CAR T-cell therapy is finally ready for prime time in treating cancer.

Of several dozen ALL patients in a clinical trial for Kymriah, 83 percent were cancer-free after three months. It is a lifeline for patients in which traditional treatments like chemotherapy and bone-marrow transplants had failed. When the FDA’s advisory committee initially voted in favor of approving Kymriah, one member called it “the most exciting thing I’ve seen in my lifetime” for childhood leukemia. Novartis is hardly the only company interested in CAR T. Kymriah is the first approved therapy, but several clinical trials—mostly notably Kite Pharma’s for lymphoma—are right behind it.

(To clear up any possible confusion about terminology: The FDA and others have chosen to call CAR T-cell therapy a form of gene therapy—and thus deemed it the first gene therapy to be approved in the United States.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

CAR-T cells: A drive to the future of cancer treatment

Conrad Fernandez describes the ethical challenges related to the use of CAR T-cell therapy for cancer patients.

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I am a pediatric oncologist and over the years have looked after hundreds of children with cancer – ranging in age from newborns into their early 20s. About a third of these children have suffered from leukemia. During my career of more than 25 years, I have seen my share of sadness and joy. Roughly one in five of these children have died – most often because of resistance intrinsic to their cancer but sometimes as a consequence of the toxicity of cancer therapy. These toxicities may occur acutely during the treatment (such as severe infections) or more insidiously appear years or decades later. A novel treatment approach that would overcome this resistance while avoiding chemotherapy toxicity would be most welcome.

A few years ago, I sat in a plenary session of the American Society of Hematology annual meeting (the preeminent hematology meeting in the world) where early phase CAR T-cell therapy was discussed. CAR (chimeric antigen receptor) T-cells are genetically reprogrammed immune cells that normally have the job of fighting infection or other foreign intruders into our bodies. CAR T-cells are manufactured to target a subtype of leukemia that is called B-cell leukemia – a type especially common in childhood. I thought to myself to take special note of what I was hearing, as this marked the potential for a paradigm shift in how we approached treatment of leukemia and perhaps other cancers. It is for these relapsed and refractory B-cell leukemia patients that the FDA’s Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee (ODAC) has just recommended approval of CAR T-cell therapy – the first recommendation for approval of its kind.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

CAR-T cells: A drive to the future of cancer treatment

Conrad Fernandez describes the ethical challenges related to the use of CAR T-cell therapy for cancer patients.

__________________________________________

I am a pediatric oncologist and over the years have looked after hundreds of children with cancer – ranging in age from newborns into their early 20s. About a third of these children have suffered from leukemia. During my career of more than 25 years, I have seen my share of sadness and joy. Roughly one in five of these children have died – most often because of resistance intrinsic to their cancer but sometimes as a consequence of the toxicity of cancer therapy. These toxicities may occur acutely during the treatment (such as severe infections) or more insidiously appear years or decades later. A novel treatment approach that would overcome this resistance while avoiding chemotherapy toxicity would be most welcome.

A few years ago, I sat in a plenary session of the American Society of Hematology annual meeting (the preeminent hematology meeting in the world) where early phase CAR T-cell therapy was discussed. CAR (chimeric antigen receptor) T-cells are genetically reprogrammed immune cells that normally have the job of fighting infection or other foreign intruders into our bodies. CAR T-cells are manufactured to target a subtype of leukemia that is called B-cell leukemia – a type especially common in childhood. I thought to myself to take special note of what I was hearing, as this marked the potential for a paradigm shift in how we approached treatment of leukemia and perhaps other cancers. It is for these relapsed and refractory B-cell leukemia patients that the FDA’s Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee (ODAC) has just recommended approval of CAR T-cell therapy – the first recommendation for approval of its kind.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

FDA Approves First CAR-T Cell Therapy for Pediatric Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

Caption: Cancer survivor Emily Whitehead with her dog Lucy.
Credit: Emily Whitehead Foundation

Tremendous progress continues to be made against the Emperor of All Maladies, cancer. One of the most exciting areas of progress involves immunotherapy, a treatment strategy that harnesses the natural ability of the body’s own immune cells to attack and kill tumor cells. A lot of extremely hard work has gone into this research, so I was thrilled to learn that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just announced today its first approval of a promising type of immunotherapy called CAR-T cell therapy for kids and young adults with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL)—the most common childhood cancer in the U.S.

ALL is a cancer of white blood cells called lymphocytes. Its treatment with chemotherapy drugs, developed with NIH support, has transformed ALL’s prognosis in kids from often fatal to largely treatable: about 90 percent of young patients now recover. But for those for whom the treatment fails, the prognosis is grim.

In the spring of 2012, Emily Whitehead of Philipsburg, PA was one such patient. The little girl was deathly ill, and her parents were worried they’d run out of options. That’s when doctors at Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, gave Emily and her parents new hope. Carl June and his team had successfully treated three adults with their version of CAR-T cell therapy, which is grounded in initial basic research supported by NIH [1,2]. Moving forward with additional clinical tests, they treated Emily—their first pediatric patient—that April. For a while, it was touch and go, and Emily almost died.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

‘Breakthrough’ Leukemia Drug Also Portends ‘Quantum Leap’ In Cost

August 23, 2017

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“From what we’re hearing, this will be a quantum leap more expensive than other cancer drugs,” said Leonard Saltz, chief of gastrointestinal oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

Switzerland-based Novartis hasn’t announced a price for the medicine, but British health authorities have said a price of $649,000 for a one-time treatment would be justified given the significant benefits.

The cancer therapy was unanimously approved by a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee in July, and its approval seems all but certain.

… Read More

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The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

NIH Family Members Giving Back: Diane Baker

Caption: My wife Diane inspired me and my staff to volunteer to make dinner for patients and their families at The Children’s Inn at NIH.
Credit: NIH Record

My blog usually celebrates biomedical advances made possible by NIH-supported research. But every August, I like to try something different and highlight an aspect of the scientific world that might not make headlines. This year, I’d like to take a moment to pay tribute to just a few of the many NIH family members around the country who, without pay or fanfare, freely give of themselves to make a difference in their communities.

I’d like to start by recognizing my wife Diane Baker, a genetic counselor who has always found time during her busy career to volunteer. When I was first being considered as NIH director, we had lots of kitchen table discussions about what it might mean for us as a couple. We decided to approach the position as a partnership. Diane immediately embraced the NIH community and, true to her giving spirit, now contributes to some wonderful charities that lend a welcome hand to patients and their loved ones who come to the NIH Clinical Center here in Bethesda, MD.

As a genetic counselor, Diane spent many years working with pediatric patients and their families at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Now she puts this real-world experience to great use as a board member for the Friends of Patients at the NIH. This dedicated group provides a support system for patients participating in an NIH clinical trial and their families.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

The Moral of the Case of Charlie Gard: Give Dying Patients Experimental Treatment … Early

The tragic case of Charlie Gard has captured the imagination of social media, the Pope and President Trump. All of Charlie’s legal options appear to have been exhausted so, despite the tsunami of opinion, it looks like treatment will be withdrawn, barring some act of God or other authority.

I argued back in April  and then in May that it would be reasonable to give Charlie a trial of experimental treatment for a fixed period, say 6 months. The treatment was not going to make him worse and there was a non-zero possibility of some improvement. At the end of 6 months, his progress could have been reviewed and a decision then made to withdraw treatment if no significant progress had been made. I argued that we can’t be certain that his life is not worth living and we can’t be certain treatment will lead to zero improvement. I argued that the costs – 6 months of sedation and analgesia, with limited amounts of suffering associated with medical procedures, was arguably worth taking. That course was not taken.

Worst of All Possible Worlds

Charlie was born in September 2016. He was admitted to hospital in October. By January 2017, his mother had identified an experimental treatment (nucleoside replacement therapy) available in the US.

By April 2017, the Gards had crowd-sourced £1.2million to take Charlie to the US for experimental therapy. However, a judge ruled life is not in his best interests. He must die. Numerous appeals were lodged, and lost, all the way up to the European Court of Human Rights.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Regenerative Medicine: Making Blood Stem Cells in the Lab

Caption: Arrow in first panel points to an endothelial cell induced to become hematopoietic stem cell (HSC). Second and third panels show the expansion of HSCs over time.
Credit: Raphael Lis, Weill Cornell Medicine, New York, NY

Bone marrow transplants offer a way to cure leukemia, sickle cell disease, and a variety of other life-threatening blood disorders.There are two major problems, however: One is many patients don’t have a well-matched donor to provide the marrow needed to reconstitute their blood with healthy cells. Another is even with a well-matched donor, rejection or graft versus host disease can occur, and lifelong immunosuppression may be needed.

A much more powerful option would be to develop a means for every patient to serve as their own bone marrow donor. To address this challenge, researchers have been trying to develop reliable, lab-based methods for making the vital, blood-producing component of bone marrow: hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs).

Two new studies by NIH-funded research teams bring us closer to achieving this feat. In the first study, researchers developed a biochemical “recipe” to produce HSC-like cells from human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), which were derived from mature skin cells. In the second, researchers employed another approach to convert mature mouse endothelial cells, which line the inside of blood vessels, directly into self-renewing HSCs. When these HSCs were transplanted into mice, they fully reconstituted the animals’ blood systems with healthy red and white blood cells.

As reported in Nature, both teams took advantage of earlier evidence showing that HSCs are formed during embryonic development from budding endothelial cells in the aorta.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Breakthrough Immunotherapies Seem Like a Dream Come True for Children with Leukemia

Guest Post: Nancy Jecker, Aaron Wightman, Abby Rosenberg, Doug Diekema

Paper: From protection to entitlement: selecting research subjects for early phase clinical trials involving breakthrough therapies

A breakthrough therapy to cure cancer in children suffering from acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is a dream for many families.  New immunotherapies appear to make this dream a reality. Such therapies use a person’s own immune cells to recognize and combat their disease. In the largest study to date of ALL patients treated with a form of immunotherapy known as Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T-Cell therapy, a 93% remission rate was reported. Such results are a glimmer of hope for those whose prognoses were previously considered very poor.

However, the good news is tempered by the fact this potentially lifesaving experimental therapy may not be available to everyone who might benefit. And demand is growing as word spreads. Since CAR T-cell therapy for ALL is available only through clinical trials, do patients have a right to participate? How should we choose among medically suitable candidates?

We have faced these questions before. Most recently, with ZMapp to treat Ebola Virus Disease, azidothymidine (AZT) to treat HIV and AIDS, and Immunitab (Gleevac) to treat Chronic Myleogenous Leukemia. Are patients suffering from devastating, life-threatening diseases entitled to breakthrough therapies?

In a recent paper, we argue that benefit is a continuum, from the complete uncertainty associated with standard research, to an intermediate stage where evidence of benefit mounts and reaches a peak, to a final stage of clearly demonstrated benefit that is sufficient to gain approval for clinical applications.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.