Cell Therapy: A New Frontier
Updated: Sep 12, 2022
Current treatments for fighting cancer and neurodegenerative diseases are not enough. Thankfully, innovative, cutting-edge medical techniques, such as cell therapy, are gaining the attention of doctors, academics, businesses, and governmental regulators.
Emergence of Cell Therapy
Cell therapy is a revolutionary feat of biotech advancements. Relying on novel technologies, cell therapy is a means of addressing many shortcomings that exist in current medicinal practice and research.
Cell therapy treats diseases and chronic conditions by replacing faulty or damaged cells with healthy ones.
When the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Novartis’ Kymriah and Gilead’s Yescarta cell therapy treatments, this bio-science field skyrocketed, receiving international attention from businesses and academics.
After these successful additions to the market, JNJ-4528 also joined the ranks. Developed by Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies in collaboration with Legend Biotech, JNJ-4528 was deemed by the FDA as a breakthrough drug to be used in late-stage multiple myeloma patients.[a] An 86% remission rate has been reported in this clinical population group.[a]
Advances in Oncology Treatment
Cell therapy has emerged as a viable treatment after effective and strong results for the treatment of blood cancers such as leukaemia and lymphoma.
Through cell therapy, it is possible to use the patient’s own immune system and help tune it to fight diseases such as cancer. Techniques such as CAR T-cell therapy are paving the way for patient-specific solutions.
Application for Ocular Diseases
While most uses of cell therapy have been for targeting cancers, recent efforts have been directed toward ocular diseases. Researchers are interested particularly in ocular diseases because the eyes are self-contained organs and are not easily prone to an adverse immune system response.
Stanford University researchers are planning on harnessing cell therapy approaches for treating eye damage caused by infections and chemical burns.
Meanwhile, the UK is planning on offering Novartis’ gene therapy for treating inherited retinal dystrophies which are associated with congenital blindness.[a]
Cell Therapy Expands Current Medical Practice
With novel techniques, cell therapy is able to advance current medicinal practice, offering solutions to existing problems.
Systematic Shortfalls Are Bypassed
It usually takes many years before a drug is approved and available to the public. With the recent boom in cell therapy, governmental regulators such as the FDA are fast-tracking novel cell therapy treatments. This is especially favorable among treatment-resistant patient groups which have exhausted all avenues of treatment.
Drug Delivery Methods Are Inefficient
Drugs administration also has its shortcomings. The classic example depicting drug delivery inefficiency is the lack of specificity many drugs show.[a] Many drugs can destroy both beneficial and harmful cells since their mechanism of action cannot distinguish between good and bad cells. Although cell therapy does come with its own side-effects, these can be anticipated and handled by hospital staff.
Lack of Tools
In addition to the systematic shortfalls of current research approaches and drug manufacturing inefficiency, medical practice also lacks tools for performing patient-specific medicine. Cell therapy techniques allow for the infusion and transplantation of cells that come from the patient, are host-specific, and are less likely to be rejected by the immune system. Existing medicines do not reach this level of specificity.
Cell therapy is a remarkable example of what bio-science has become in the 21st century. Targeting diseases by intervening on the cellular level shows not only the ingenuity that the scientific community has reached, but also the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration, such as that between doctors and laboratory researchers.
Over the last few years, cell therapy has emerged as a promising way forward for the medical field and will soon navigate commercial development before ultimately reaching and benefiting patients in need.[a]