Cell therapy is an idea that is growing popular in the medical science field. The concept of cell therapy isn’t an ancient science. However, technology and innovations make it more sophisticated.
Due to its tremendous potential, many people wonder about the utility of this treatment. Importantly, the utility revolves around cancer, a disease that kills one in six people globally.
So, can cell therapy treatment become an effective way to cure cancer? The answer isn’t straightforward but is certainly promising. This article tells you all about the innovations that can be potential lifesavers for cancer patients.
What Is Cell Therapy?
Let us understand cellular therapy in simple terms. Cells can repair broken tissues in the human body.
Cell therapy includes transplanting different types of healthy cells to target anomalies in a body. After entering the body, these cells replace the unhealthy cells causing an illness or a disorder.
The cells used for effective treatment are:
- Blood forming stem cells
- Dendritic cells
- Brain cells
- Pancreatic cells
In some cases, specialized cells fall short in number during treatment. For instance, brain cells are a challenge for extraction from the human body. So, what’s the solution? You might have guessed it – Stem cells.
What Are Stem Cells?
Stem cells solve the issue of inadequacy of specialized cells. In simple terms, this means experts can develop stem cells outside the human body.
Hence, the patient undergoing stem cell treatment will never face a shortage of these cells.
Stem cells can develop into functional cells. These cells can give rise to specific cell types. They are an impeccable source of cells, almost like a production house.
Stem cells are of two major types:
- Pluripotent stem cells can give rise to a variety of cell types
- Adult stem cells can only differentiate into specific cells of particular tissues
Doctors insert stem cells through a needle in the patient’s veins.
Stem cells can replace the cells affected by cancer. Although these cells do not work on all types of cancers, they are effective against lymphoma and leukemia.
A Next-Gen Innovation – CAR T
Stem cells have limitations. They are like catalysts that help patients recover from cancer. Hence, one cannot entirely depend on such cells.
In addition, stem cell clinical trials on cancers are still in progress. So, we do not have an all-inclusive stem cell cancer therapy.
CAR T is an innovative cell therapy treatment. This procedure can become the next big thing in medical science.
What Is CAR T?
CAR T stands for Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-Cell. This treatment involves modifying the patient’s or donor’s T-Cell.
The CAR T treatment uses T-cells to attack the cancer cells. Lab personnel adds a special receptor to the T-cell that targets cancer cells. By the method of infusion, these lab-modified T-cells enter a patient’s body and destroy cancerous cells.
Thus, promising clinical trials provide a ray of hope through the CAR T therapy technique. This treatment can work against blood cancers and tumors.
In a case trial on 30 participants, 90% of patients achieved remission. In this trial, CAR T therapy proved effective in targeting CD19, a cell protein produced in high amounts in cancer cells.
Limitations Of CAR T Therapy:
Several cancer therapies have side effects, and CAR T is no exclusion. At this time, CAR T treatment has side effects like:
- B-cell aplasia
- Cytokine release syndrome
However, constant research in this therapy is ongoing. Thus, we can expect minimum side effects, increased remission durability, and better reach of CAR T therapy.
CAR T can be ineffective in treating solid tumors. The reason for this limitation is the inaccessibility of tumor antigens.
Still, researchers are trying to overcome this drawback. As time progresses, we can witness this innovative therapy working even on solid tumors.
The Practical Challenges of CAR T
What are the possible factors that impact CAR-T’s prominence? Here is a quick look.
High Manufacturing Cost
The biggest challenge with CAR T-cell therapy is the costly manufacturing process. This reason exists due to the centralization and complex lab requirements.
In addition, the logistics challenges add to the overall cost of procurement. Thus, limited certified medical centers and intricate preparation make CAR T a costly venture.
As CAR T therapy is an innovative treatment procedure, it needs a team of qualified experts. Facilities cannot indulge in manufacturing medical cells without proper care.
Such requirements demand a team of doctors, lab experts, technicians, and scientists. Also, these professionals need thorough knowledge about this treatment.
As CAR T-cell therapy is comparatively new, fewer people make its commercialization a tad tricky.
As the therapy is new, investors are skeptical about providing large sums of money. Hence, the production of CAR T-cells progresses on a case-by-case basis.
The ongoing clinical trials and uncertainty over the expansion of this therapy give rise to uncertain investment.
Moreover, this point will become less prominent as clinical trials proceed at a brisk pace. Still, at this time, reimbursement is one of the practical challenges of CAR T therapy.
The Future Potential of Cell Therapy Treatment
As you can see, CAR T is the treatment with maximum capacity to treat cancer. However, it accompanies side-effects, limitations, and practical challenges.
Reprogramming immune cells is the main focus to innovative cell therapy treatments. This process is widely known as immunotherapy.
Apart from CAR T, other ongoing research revolves around:
- TCR Therapy
- TIL Therapy
- Natural Killer Cell Therapy
However, most research still puts high emphasis on Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-Cell. These therapies sound promising but need constant improvements.
Innovative cell therapy treatments can overcome the limitations of stem cells. Importantly, stem cells do not treat cancer directly. On the contrary, treatments like CAR T targets cancer cells. Thus, such cellular therapies can be fruitful soon.
At this time, these innovative treatments face several issues. Hence, we cannot be completely sure about their inclusion in the majority of cancer treatments.
With more tumor-specific proteins study, this approach can take a fluent pace. It will be interesting to see if such treatments cure different cancers, including solid tumors.