20.04.2021 change 20.04.2021

Wrocław Medical University wins PLN 15 million grant for treatment with CAR-T therapy

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Researchers from the Wroclaw Medical University have received over PLN 15 million grant from the Medical Research Agency for research on innovative CAR-T therapy.

Professor Tomasz Wróbel, head of the university’s Department of Haematology, Blood Neoplasms and Bone Marrow Transplantation said that the acquisition of the ABM grant enabled the launch of CAR-T academic production at the university and its application in patients with aggressive lymphomas and acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

He said: “In addition, we plan to create a technological platform that will enable CAR-T production in other haematological and cancer indications. Polish patients currently have very limited access to this innovative therapy due to the lack of reimbursement of very high costs of CAR-T produced by pharmaceutical companies. Clinical trials, such as ours, give patients access to this type of treatment.

“It is worth noting that the Haematology Department has adequate laboratory equipment for CAR-T production thanks to the generous donation of one of our patients. The patient's wife donated nearly PLN 1.5 million raised for the treatment of her husband who, unfortunately, could not take advantage of this therapy.”

CAR-T therapy is primarily a hope for cancer patients with chronic, aggressive tumours. Until now, CAR-T was a commercial, expensive therapy. Now, academic CAR-T will be produced in Wrocław, which will significantly reduce its costs.

Professor Wróbel continued: “Currently, the most important goals are the preparation and accreditation of the Genetic Engineering Department, registration of a clinical trial, staff training in servicing laboratory devices intended for the production of CAR-T. The next stage is the start of the study, in which we plan to use CAR-T in 30 patients.”

Most patients will come from the Department of Haematology, Blood Neoplasms and Bone Marrow Transplantation, some also from the child's Clinic 'Cape of Hope’.

Professor Krzysztof Kałwak, deputy head of the Department of Paediatric Bone Marrow Transplantation, Oncology and Haematology in Wrocław said: “We plan to offer the latest technology to children from a very high risk group at the first recurrence, in other words to those, for whom the commercial preparation is not available due to lack of registration.”

Professor Bernarda Kazanowska, deputy head of the Department of Paediatric Bone Marrow Transplantation, Oncology and Haematology in Wrocław added: “Most patients with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia respond well to conventional treatment, but in some of them, with bad prognosis, recurrence follows quickly.”

Currently, for about 15-20 children per year there are no therapeutic solutions that would give a chance for a cure. The CAR-T method is undoubtedly a hope for them.

Despite the lack of financing for this therapy in Poland, in the children's Clinic 'Cape of Hope' six children have already received CAR-T thanks to the support of donors.

Professor Krzysztof Kałwak said: “The first patient, a 11-year-old boy, received the therapy in March 2020. Earlier, for seven years he had had an active disease, a few recurrences, three transplants of haematopoietic cells. Currently, residual disease is negative, and active CAR-T cells persist in peripheral blood. The boy does not have to stay in the hospital. The impossible has become possible.”

In 2019, the Paediatric Bone Marrow Transplantation, Oncology and Haematology Clinic 'Cape of Hope' of the University Clinical Hospital in Wrocław completed a certification process, confirming its readiness to treat paediatric patients struggling with a resistant or recurrent acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) with CAR-T therapy of. 

'Cape of Hope' is the first and only clinic in Poland certified for the use of CAR-T therapy in children and young adults with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. (PAP)

Author: Roman Skiba

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