Morris Plains, NJ: In what may prove to be the next breakthrough in cancer treatment, researchers at Novartis Pharmaceuticals are developing a new way to treat cancer. The process, known as CAR-T, involves removing the patient's T-cells, genetically engineering them in the lab to recognize and attack tumor cells, and returning them to the patient's body.
While this process may sound like a clinical trial that is many years out, it is actually close to becoming a reality. Early clinical trials involving patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia who stopped responding to other treatments have shown some success. Many of the patients' tumors completely disappeared, and several patients have remained cancer-free for long periods.
"There are going to be many other tests, in other cancers, immune diseases and even some genetic diseases may eventually be treated," Dr. David Epstein, the Novartis Pharmaceuticals Division Head, told CNBC's Nightly Business Report. "So we don't know if it's going to be used for thousands of patients, or tens of thousands of patients, or in the best case scenario, many years out, even more."
Novartis Pharmaceuticals is leading the push to bring this new treatment to fruition. CAR-T stands for chimeric antigen receptor therapy. It's a form of immunotherapy known as adoptive cell transfer in which treatments are designed to use the patient's own immune cells to fight cancer. Novartis says that if all goes well, its first product could hit the market as early as 2017.
Sterility is of the utmost importance when handling patient cells. Clinical researchers at Novartis view every cell culture as an extension of the patient, and because of that, they engage in the most rigorous biosafety measures. Researchers must wear several layers of personal protective equipment, including a lab coat, two pairs of gloves, goggles and masks.
Additional biosafety is provided by using NuAire custom biosafety cabinets while working with cell cultures. These cabinets offer Class II protection for personnel, product and the environment. They can be used for applications that require protection from potentially harmful aerosols and airborne particles. NuAire custom solutions aren't limited to cancer research - they allow for a variety of application uses.