An immunotherapy treatment that utilizes T cells to fight cancer may soon be covered by Medicare for mesothelioma patients. Immunotherapy is still an emerging set of cancer treatments that utilizes the patient’s own immune system to fight and kill cancer cells. The specific treatment that uses T cells is called chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy. The treatment helps target mesothelin, which is on the cancer cells’ surfaces. Blood is removed from the patient and the T cells within the blood are genetically engineered to create receptors called chimeric antigen receptors. The T cells are then injected back into the patient where they fight cancer inside the patient’s body. They are able to target and attack certain proteins on the surface of cells and then kill the cancer cells.
The CAR T-cell therapy could potentially be used on mesothelioma patients. In August, the treatment was approved for non-Hodgkin lymphoma and B-Cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia for Medicare patients. While the treatment is approved, it can only be administered by FDA approved hospitals and properly trained staff because immunotherapy can have negative side effects, making it necessary that patients are monitored when receiving treatment. This therapy can also bring hope and can potentially help patients whose cancers have not responded to chemotherapy and radiation.
While CAR T-cell therapy has not been approved for mesothelioma yet, a study using it on mesothelioma patients has shown promising results. The study used T cells injected into patients’ chest cavities to target mesothelin. The doctors then measured the amount of T cells and blood tumor markers in the patients’ bodies. They also looked at the chest using body imaging to see if the tumors shrank. The study resulted in tumors shrinking with no harmful side effects in the patients receiving the treatment.
New developments in medicine like the CAR T-cell treatment can greatly help patients with deadly cancers like mesothelioma. It is not yet approved to treat mesothelioma, but is showing promising results. At some point, it could be approved and help those suffering from mesothelioma extend their lives and reduce their symptoms. Once this happens and the treatment is covered by Medicare, many people’s lives will be improved.
“CAR T Cells: Engineering Patients’ Immune Cells to Treat Their Cancers” National Cancer Institute (July 30, 2019). [Link]
Dena Bunis, “Medicare to Cover Costly New Treatment for Some Cancers” AARP (August 8, 2019). [Link]
“Mesothelin-targeted CAR T-cell therapy shows early promise in patients with solid tumors” Science Daily (March 19, 2019). [Link]