Healthcast: CAR T Therapy

A new form of immunotherapy is being called a milestone in cancer treatment. Could this be the big break patients have been waiting for?

Jeffrey Backer didn't think he'd be taking a swing ever again. 

"I never really expected to be here today," Backer said.

Cancer was taking over his body. He tried chemotherapy, even a stem cell transplant.

"The secret to being a successful cancer survivor is just stay alive long enough until technology catches up to your disease," he said.

Backer is hopeful that has now happened. A new form of immunotherapy called CAR T therapy turns the immune system's t-cells into fighters.

"It's pretty amazing to see patients go into remission that we really had low hope of standard therapies working," said oncologist Dr. Frederick Locke.

Dr. Locke says the t-cells are removed from the patient and sent to a lab then they're reprogrammed so they can detect and kill cancer cells. Those new t-cells are later infused back into the patient. 

"They activate for a fight and they kill the target cells, the cancer cells in this case," Locke said.

Backer said the CAR T therapy was tough.

"But in the back of my mind I knew the outcome was going to be good," Backer said.

Signs of the disease started disappearing within a week. Now he's in complete remission.

"A lot of people die waiting for this opportunity," Backer said.

But researchers say this therapy is keeping more patients headed in the right direction. This new immunotherapy is being tested on patients like Backer with aggressive diffused large b-cell lymphoma. This is one of the most common malignancies.


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