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CAR-T cancer therapy passes milestone

Belgianbiotech Celyad's cancer immunotherapy will now be tested at higher doses

A CAR-T therapy for leukaemia developed by Belgian biotech company Celyad has cleared a safety assessment and will now be tested at higher doses.

The autologous Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy - an approach generating excitement as a new form of cancer immunotherapy - has been delivered to three patients with acute myeloid leukaemia or multiple myeloma and found to be safe after a 30-day assessment.

More patients will now be enrolled into a second phase of the trial, which will involve a six-fold higher dose of CAR-T cells, according to the company.

CAR-T therapies involve taking harvesting T cells from patients and modifying them outside the body so that they recognise an antigen on malignant cells. The modified cells are then grown in large quantities and infused into the patient, hopefully to seek out and destroy cancer cells.

Celyad's NKG2D CAR candidate is one of the first CAR-T cell-based therapies to enter clinical trials, so data showing it is safe is a key milestone. If this early trial is successful the company has indicated it will move ahead with additional trials in solid tumours.

Earlier this month, CAR-T therapy hit the headlines around the world after French biotech Cellectis reported it had achieved a dramatic response in a baby girl with an aggressive form of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) using a CAR-T therapy given under a compassionate-use license.

The girl - who had previously not responded to any other form of therapy and was destined for palliative care only - has since left hospital and is doing well after a single treatment with Cellectis' UCART19 cell product.

Cellectis' approach differs from Celyad's and other CAR-T developers such as Juno Therapeutics, Kite Pharma and Novartis because it is based on allogeneic CAR-T cells - in other words cells that can be used off the shelf and do not have to be harvested from an individual patient.

That could be a major competitive advantage over autologous approaches, although it remains to be seen whether UCART19's early success will be backed up in clinical trials due to start next year.

Meanwhile, Celyad has been granted a US patent on a method for producing allogeneic CAR-T therapies that - according to analysts at Edison - could generate another revenue stream for the Belgian company through licensing to other CAR-T developers.

The patent covers the use of TCR Inhibitory Molecules (TIMs) that prevent T cells donated from another person attacking the patient undergoing therapy - a phenomenon known as graft-versus-host disease (GVHD).

Article by
Phil Taylor

18th November 2015

From: Research

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