Although excitement surrounding recent trials of T-cell therapies and their ability to treat blood cancer has been widespread of late, there are lingering questions about their marketability, says an analyst with research and consulting firm GlobalData.
To date, T-cell therapy trials have produced exciting results, meaning such treatments have been hailed as the next big advancement in personalized immunotherapy. For example, after one such trial, researchers at a cancer research institution in Washington reported that six out of seven patients experienced complete remission.
However, Cai Xuan, PhD, GlobalData’s analyst covering oncology and haematology, states that: “The cost of T-cell therapy is currently estimated at a staggering $300,000 per patient, with some estimates pegging the cost at over $500,000. Given this, T-cell therapies must show curative ability to justify such a high price tag in comparison to existing treatment options such as stem cell transplantation, which can cost from around $100,000 to $200,000.”
“To do this, more trials must be conducted. To date, only a handful have gone ahead, in a limited number of patients, due to the high cost, as well as the long and difficult manufacturing processes involved in administering T-cell therapy. This presents a huge scalability problem which cannot easily be solved,” added Xuan.
While cost and scalability are both significant issues, perhaps the most difficult barrier T-cell therapy will have to overcome is its poor safety profile. Even in the limited data released so far, fatal cases of tumor lysis syndrome, cytokine release syndrome, and other organ-specific toxicities have been reported.
Xuan continues: “The aggressive nature of T-cell therapy’s side-effects means it is highly unlikely to replace current frontline therapy options. On top of this, the lack of long-term follow-up data presents the danger of additional long-term toxicities being revealed in the future. Data suggesting impressive remission rates of up to 90% in treated patients are preliminary, and it is still too early to tell if these remissions will turn into cures. T-cell therapy is undoubtedly a significant step forward for immunotherapy, but whether it will reach the status of a breakthrough cure remains to be seen.”