When all of the traditional cancer treatments have been tried without success, there are methods sometimes presented as “revolutionary”, but which are far out of the price range of your average person.
To treat this terrible illness, various methods are used depending on the type of cancer: surgery, chemotherapy, targeted therapies, radiotherapy or hormone therapy. When none of these techniques completely eliminates the cancer, some people turn towards “revolutionary” methods.
However, you need to have money in the bank for such an approach, as is the case with a treatment that involves the therapeutic use of CAR-T cells, aimed at treating acute cases of leukemia and lymphoma, or in other words cancers of the blood. This remedy, developed over the course of a decade, was validated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States last year.
The fact is that the cost of therapeutic use of CAR-T cells is €385,000 euro for one single treatment -a staggering cost that few people could imagine taking on. The Swiss pharmaceutical group Novartis and the American laboratory Gilead share the monopoly on this treatment and together could keep it out of reach for people who need it, but don’t have the sufficient means.
This what David Mitchell believes, the founder of the organisation Patients for Affordable Drugs, which fights for more affordable treatments. They target the area of cancer treatment in particular, in which so called revolutionary treatments are often synonymous with six figure sums.
Mitchell, himself suffering from multiple myeloma, is obviously excited about the therapeutic use of CAR-T cells. In fact, it involves reconfiguring the patient’s immune system by ‘educating’ the T cells, which are generally unable to detect the presence of cancer cells, mistaking them for a part of the body.
Doctors take blood samples from the patient, genetically modify the T cells and then re-inject the same blood via blood transfusion. The T cells, then renamed CAR-T cells, are thus capable of multiplying to form a sort of “living micro-pharmacy” in the patient’s body.