"Has The Cure For Cancer Crept Up On Us?"
After slowly gaining ground over the last few decades, a dynamic new weapon in the fight against cancer could finally be in our hands…
And just like that, the news is out. The BBC recently broke the incredible story of a US woman with terminal breast cancer who had been given only 3 months to live – but who now, 2 years after receiving a revolutionary new treatment, has no signs of cancer in her body. None.
The biggest surprise of all? This treatment she received is not a new synthetic “wonder-drug”, but a product of her body’s own immune system – a ‘living drug’ crafted from the woman’s own immune cells and reprogrammed by scientists to destroy her cancer for good.
How did this all come about?
This incredible new treatment is the result of an overall shift in strategy for cancer treatment, with researchers turning to the body’s own disease-fighting mechanisms to combat cancer. And while the idea of using the body’s own natural defence system to fight against disease and nail those difficult-to-target rogue cells is hardly new, advances in our understanding of the human immune system and of cancer means this option is now a real possibility.
The reprogramming of a patient’s immune cells to fight cancer (called CAR-T) is just one of the many options available, with anti-cancer antibodies and cancer vaccines also being explored. CAR-T has already been approved by the FDA for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in children and young adults, indicating that widespread commercialisation of CAR-T and similar therapies may be just around the corner.
So, what does this mean for healthcare marketers?
As a treatment option, CAR-T is worlds away from the standard therapies healthcare professionals and patients are used to, and it’s our view that Australia’s healthcare industry will need to adapt to this innovation quickly. Ensuring both patients and physicians understand the complexity of CAR-T will be a significant challenge for the industry – but an important one. As with all change, good communication will support a smooth transition, and ultimately allow these treatments to get to patients faster. While there are still some doubts as to how broad the application of CAR-T will be and whether the use of the word ‘cure’ is premature, the early success of this innovation gives cancer physicians, their patients and our industry as a whole great hope that the days of incurable cancer may finally be numbered.
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