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  • Context (PIB): India’s President launched the country’s first home-grown gene therapy for cancer at IIT Bombay.
  • This therapy, called CAR-T cell therapy, is not only accessible and affordable but also a shining example of India’s Make in India initiative.
  • Developed through a collaboration between IIT Bombay, Tata Memorial Hospital, and industry partner ImmunoACT.

Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR)-T Cell Therapy

Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR)-T Cell Therapy

Source: National Cancer Institute

  • Unlike chemotherapy or immunotherapy which uses injectable or oral medication, CAR T-cell therapies use a patient’s own cells.
  • In CAR T-cell therapy, the patient’s blood is drawn to harvest T-cells (immune cells that play a significant role in destroying tumour cells).
  • T cells are genetically engineered by introducing DNA into them to produce chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) on the surface of the T cells. After reengineering, T cells are called CAR T cells.
  • CAR T cells are then multiplied and infused into the patient.
  • CARs are proteins that allow T cells to recognise an antigen in targeted tumour cells.

T cells

  • T cell (T lymphocyte or thymocyte) is a white blood cell essential to the immune system.
  • It protects the body from infection and helps fight cancer.
  • It develops from stem cells in the bone marrow.

Types of Blood Cells


Significance of CAR-T Cell Therapy

  • More Effective: CAR T cells are more specific and directly activate the patient’s immune system against cancer. This is why they’re called ‘living drugs’.
  • Long-Term Remission: It can produce long-term remission, even for those with advanced or relapsed cancer. This is because CAR T cells remain in the body and can continue to attack cancer cells.
  • Lesser Side-Effects: CAR-T cells are engineered to target cancer cells that express a particular antigen specifically. This precision minimises damage to healthy cells.
  • Customised Treatment: CAR-T cell therapy can be customised for each patient.
  • Treatment for Previously Incurable Cases: CAR-T cell therapy has provided hope for cancer patients previously considered incurable.

Concerns With CAR-T Cell Therapy

  • Cytokine release syndrome (CRS): CRS is an inflammatory response that can occur after CAR T cell therapy. In severe cases, CRS can lead to organ failure and death.
  • Neurotoxicity: It is a range of side effects that can affect the nervous system. These side effects can range from mild (such as headache and confusion) to severe (such as seizures and coma).
  • Low blood cell counts: It can lead to a decrease in blood cell counts, including red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets
  • Infection Risk: It may weaken the immune system, making the patients more susceptible to infections.
  • Attack healthy tissues: CAR-T cells may mistakenly attack healthy tissues and cancer cells.
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