In the fight against blood cancers, immunotherapy and CAR-T are two key elements. How they work and what results have been obtained
Two keywords, for the future of the fight against blood cancers: immunotherapy and CAR-T, with cancer learning to defend itself thanks to drugs. These two treatment options, the use of which is however extremely limited, represent the future of therapies and are at the heart of the fifteenth "National Day for the fight against leukemias, lymphomas and myeloma" promoted by AIL and placed under the High Patronage of the President. of the Republic.
How CAR-T works
The treatment with CAR-T, in particular, is an immunotherapy that uses particular white blood cells, the T lymphocytes, engineered to activate the immune system against cancer cells, as happens for example for infections.
The patient's T lymphocytes are taken and subsequently genetically modified in the laboratory in order to make them capable of recognizing cancer cells: when they are returned to the patient they enter the bloodstream and are able to recognize the cancer cells and eliminate them through the activation of the immune response.
The therapy, although not applicable to all patients, has the great advantage of being able to treat even those who have failed conventional chemo and radiotherapy treatments.
"The treatment perspective represented by the CAR-T has shown to modify – in the studies carried out so far – the prognosis of aggressive lymphomas for which no concrete alternatives were available – informs Sergio Amadori, AIL National President -. Today these patients have one more chance of controlling the disease and also the possibility of healing. But it is important to say, once again, that not all patients can benefit from this therapy. And that research must continue. "
To date, 12 authorized centers for CAR-T are in Italy, 3 of which are pediatric, some are already activated and others will soon be activated as soon as the qualification phase foreseen by the regulatory authorities has ended. In our country, CAR-T therapy is approved for the treatment of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma and for mantle cell lymphoma for which the results are particularly promising. "Furthermore, it is still being tested against follicular lymphoma – says Paolo Corradini, Director of the Hematology and Transplant Division of the IRCCS National Cancer Institute of Milan Foundation and President of SIE (Italian Society of Hematology). The Italian results are absolutely superimposable to those of the registration studies and in line with those of other European countries, such as Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Spain, which started about a year earlier ".
AIL's commitment continues
Over the years, together with the most important results of scientific research, the National Day was also an opportunity to present "Dreaming Ithaca" the sailing therapy initiative dedicated to hematological patients which aims to promote their psychological and the improvement of the quality of life culminated for 13 years with the Itaca day on 21 June.
This year the fourteenth edition, due to the pandemic, was not able to take place, like many other national and provincial events and events of the 81 AIL Sections present on the national territory. But AIL's initiatives for patients and the improvement of the quality of life for them and their families continue, for the moment only in different forms.
As every year, some of the most illustrious Italian hematologists will be available to those who need it to provide answers and advice to the AIL toll free number – hematological problems 800.226.524 from 8.00 to 20.00 on Friday 19 June.
All information on the initiatives and meetings promoted on the occasion of the National Day are available on the EAIL website.