Change is coming in cancer treatment. Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved its first-ever engineered cell therapies for cancer, which involve genetically reprogramming patients’ T cells to aim the power of their immune systems squarely at their cancers.
Both of these new therapies are approved only for people with certain advanced cancers who have been failed by multiple conventional treatments, like chemotherapy. Some people may wonder: If these treatments are so promising, why aren’t they available for more patients, including those who have just been diagnosed?
The short answer: We are not yet sure if the benefit outweighs the risk for patients at earlier stages of disease.
If these new treatments run a course anything like many other cancer therapies, however, they may eventually move up to the frontlines of therapy. What would it take for that to happen?
Let’s take a look at the longer answer: how research can fill in the unknowns, shift the balance of evidence and make a new therapy available to more patients.