Dr Mya explains that the option to use CAR T-cell therapy is considered only when the patient’s cancer is still not in remission following at least two lines of therapy, including stem cell transplantation.
According to Dr Colin Phipps Diong who leads the Haematology team at PCC, before the introduction of CAR T-cell therapy, there was no other viable treatment option, and patients would succumb to their blood cancer.
For eligible patients, says the senior consultant, “CAR T-cell therapy offers hope”.
How CAR T-cell therapy Works
The key to the treatment is the cancer patients’ own T-cells, which is a type of white blood cell that works to kill diseases. However, unlike common infections, cancer cells often behave differently.
“Cancers, including blood cancers are usually able to hide from the immune system … the body’s T-cells may have difficulty recognising and attacking blood cancer cells” explains Dr Diong.
The treatment therefore genetically engineers the person’s T-cells to attack cancer cells.
At PCC in Singapore, the treatment is first carried out as an inpatient procedure that lasts for some 3-4 hours, where cancer patients have their T-cells collected through apheresis using a specialised machine.