Today the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of a new Novartis immunotherapy drug, CTL019, as a treatment for advanced cases of leukemia in children and young adults.
This latest FDA ruling validates the importance of similar lifesaving cellular immunotherapies currently being developed and tested by Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and other National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers.
Dr. David Maloney, medical director of cellular immunotherapy at Fred Hutch and medical director of the Bezos Family Immunotherapy Clinic at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, Fred Hutch’s clinical care partner, offered the following statement:
“Although narrow in scope, today’s FDA ruling is a milestone. This is the first approval for the use of genetically engineered immune cells as a treatment for cancer and is an important validation of technical advances under way in the field of cellular immunotherapy where we are modifying cells from a patient’s own immune systems to seek out and eliminate cancer cells. We at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center believe this is just the first of what will soon be many new immunotherapy-based treatments for a variety of cancers.
“Approvals are an important step, but they’re just the beginning. The safety, availability and affordability of these new immunotherapies can be improved, but to achieve these goals we need an increase in industry partnerships, more corporate investments and continued government funding. This increased collaboration and funding will allow us to make further investments in fundamental R&D into how the immune system interacts with cancer, and to pursue advances in cell engineering techniques so that clinical trials can be accelerated and these experimental therapies are available to more patients.”
Fred Hutch is currently testing new experimental T-cell therapies for breast cancer, leukemia, lymphoma, lung cancer, Merkel cell carcinoma and mesothelioma.