CAR-T cell therapy is a remarkably promising treatment for cancer patients. It is a type of immunotherapy where doctors collect immune cells, modify them in a laboratory, and provide them the power to easily recognize and kill cancer cells. When infused into a patient, the cells get multiplied and stay in the body as “living drugs”.
T-cells form the backbone of CAR-T cell therapy. T-cells are the workhorses of our immune system and play a key role in directing the immune response and killing cells infected by pathogens. In CAR-T cell therapy, blood is drawn from the patient and the T-cells are separated out. In the laboratory, a disarmed virus is then used to genetically engineer the T-cells to produce chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) on their surface. Once infused into the patient, these CARs enable the T-cells to recognize and attach to an antigen on the cancer cell, leading to its destruction.
In 2012, there were only 12 CAR-T clinical trials. Today, this number had surged to over 1,200. Based on CAR-T products in the clinical pipeline, the number of approved CAR-T cell therapies is projected to reach double digits within the next five years and over a 100 by 2035. This growth in the number of trials has been fueled by the unprecedented 90% remission rate shown in acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) patients treated with Kymriah. From 60% to 70% of the patients treated in the earliest clinical trials are now in remission for more than nine years, which is an unprecedented accomplishment. The earliest approvals of Kymriah and Yescarta have been infused into an astounding half million patients worldwide.
M&A activity has been even more aggressive, with Celgene snagging Juno Therapeutics for $9 billion in 2018 and Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) acquiring Celgene for $74B by 2019. Gilead’s acquisition of Kite Pharma for $11.9 billion also made waves, as did other transactions, such as Astellas Pharma’s acquisition of Xyphos Biosciences and its CAR-T technology for $665 million.
This billion dollar market would not have been possible without the remarkable efficacy of the early CAR-T therapies in treating several types of blood cancers. Ranging from small start-ups to billion-dollar companies, CAR-T companies are proliferating in all healthcare markets worldwide.