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Dr Shisir Seth, Senior Consultant (Left), Dr Amita Mahajan, Senior Consultant - Paediatric Oncology & Haematology (Center) and Mr P. Shivakumar, CEO, ACC Delhi.

Revolutionizing Cancer Care: Unleashing the Power of Made-in-India CAR T Cell Therapy

Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, on February 8, 2024, introduced a groundbreaking Made-in-India CAR T cell therapy, heralding a new era of hope for patients battling various forms of blood cancer such as B-cell lymphomas, B-acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and myeloma.

This innovative therapy, categorized under immunotherapy, targets patients aged 15 years and above.

CAR-T cell therapy, often referred to as 'living drugs,' involves a sophisticated procedure. Initially, the patient's T-cells, integral components of the immune system responsible for combating cancer cells, are extracted through a process called Apheresis.

Subsequently, these T-cells undergo genetic modification within a controlled laboratory environment using a safe vehicle known as a viral vector. 

Through this process, the T-cells are engineered to express modified connectors on their surface called Chimeric Antigen Receptors (CARs). These CARs are specifically designed to identify and bind to proteins aberrantly expressed on certain cancer cells.

Following modification, the T-cells are multiplied to achieve the desired therapeutic dose and then infused directly into the patient's bloodstream.

Despite its promising outcomes, the cost of CAR T cell therapy remains a significant concern, ranging from Rs 75 lakh to 90 lakh initially, placing it beyond the reach of many patients.

However, medical experts anticipate a potential reduction in costs over time with the involvement of various stakeholders.

This revolutionary therapy, originating in the United States in 2012, has demonstrated remarkable efficacy, particularly in pediatric patients grappling with blood cancer.

Doctors at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals express optimism regarding the transformative impact of CAR T cell therapy on cancer patients. Dr. Amita Mahajan, Senior Consultant in Paediatric Oncology & Haematology at Apollo Cancer Center, elucidates the mechanics and potential of this groundbreaking treatment. 

She explains that CAR T cell therapy entails empowering extracted T-cells from cancer patients, transforming them into potent 'supercells' capable of eradicating cancer cells—a process known as Car T Cell treatment.

Dr. Mahajan emphasizes that while studies are ongoing to evaluate the efficacy of this treatment in various cancers, initial trials conducted over the past two years in India have shown promising results. Notably, the cost of CAR T cell therapy in India is substantially lower, approximately one-tenth of international costs, making it more accessible to patients.

Highlighting success stories, Dr. Mahajan cites instances of patients experiencing significant improvements following CAR T cell therapy.

Notably, a patient who had undergone this treatment in 2012 in the United States, after undergoing multiple bone marrow transplants and relapses of leukemia, continues to lead a productive and healthy life even twelve years later.  

In India, positive outcomes have been observed in patients treated with this technique, with encouraging results evident after eighteen months.

Dr. Mahajan underscores the distinctive nature of CAR T cell therapy, which harnesses the body's own T cells to combat cancer. Unlike conventional treatments, this approach enhances the patient's immune response by bolstering their T cells' ability to recognize and eliminate cancer cells, offering the potential for long-term and life-changing outcomes.

The advent of Made-in-India CAR T cell therapy represents a significant advancement in cancer treatment, offering renewed hope and improved prospects for patients grappling with blood cancers.

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