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CAR T cell immunotherapy now available through NHS Scotland for some adults with lymphoma

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by In collaboration with PA Media Group | News

13 September 2019

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An illustration of T cells (white) attacking a tumour (purple)

A personalised immunotherapy treatment will now be available in Scotland for some adults living with an aggressive form of lymphoma.

The CAR T cell therapy, Kymriah, was originally rejected by the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) in March 2019, due to uncertainty around its long-term benefits.

But the treatment was resubmitted with additional data, which helped model the drug’s effectiveness against existing treatment options. This data helped to clarify the drug’s benefit to patients and the SMC has now approved the therapy for use on NHS Scotland.

Gordon Matheson, Cancer Research UK’s public affairs manager in Scotland, said: “It’s fantastic news that Kymriah will be made routinely available on the NHS for people in Scotland with this aggressive type of blood cancer.”

He added that the treatment was “incredibly complex and advanced”.

Kymriah approved after reassessment

Tisagenlecleucel (Kymriah) is one of a new line of immune-boosting treatments called CAR T cell therapies, which involve taking a patient’s own immune cells and modifying them in the lab. When the engineered cells are given back to the patient, they’re primed to recognise and attack cancer cells.

Approved for use on the NHS in England in February 2019, Kymriah will be used to treat adults with an aggressive type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (known as diffuse large B cell lymphoma), whose cancer has either come back after or has not responded to two or more alternative treatments.

A specialist centre is being set up in Glasgow for patients in Scotland to receive the treatment.

“It’s great that SMC and the drug’s manufacturer were able to work together to approve Kymriah for use in Scotland and provide some patients with a new treatment option who might have few other options available to them,” added Matheson.

Clinical trial results

Kymriah was tested in a phase 2 study of 111 patients with diffuse large B cell lymphoma. 93 patients were included in the latest analysis of the treatment’s effectiveness.

Over half (52%) of patients responded to the treatment. And 65% of those who responded are predicted to be relapse-free a year after treatment.

These potent immune-boosting treatments can however trigger severe side effects requiring extensive supportive care, including severe neurological problems and serious infections, as our blog post explains.