In DepthPUBLIC HEALTH

Supply of promising T cell therapy is strained

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Science  16 Jun 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6343, pp. 1112-1113
DOI: 10.1126/science.356.6343.1112

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Summary

Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cell therapy, which is based on modified immune cells, has lured doctors, companies, and patients alike, but many are hitting a frustrating roadblock: generating enough of these CAR-T cells, which remain experimental, to meet surging demand. For patients, getting the most anticipated new treatments is never easy. Clinical trials are tightly controlled and not everyone is eligible. But for this personalized approach, the difficulties are multiplied. Unlike a drug, each batch is designed for a specific patient. Because production involves genetic engineering and working with live cells, it is mostly done by hand, by highly trained technicians. The situation today is fluid, with shortages cropping up in some places and easing in others. Doctors, meanwhile, are grappling with how best to distribute the therapy among very sick patients in clinical trials.