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FDA Warns Against CAR-T Therapy Due to Possible Cancer Risk

CAR-T Therapy, Cancer Risk, FDA Warning, Boxed Warning, Patient Safety, Pharmaceutical Companies

In a significant development, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has mandated a boxed warning – its most robust safety label – to be added to the prescribing information for CAR-T therapy, a groundbreaking cancer treatment. The FDA highlighted concerns that the therapy itself might elevate the risk of rare blood cancers in patients who have undergone the treatment.

FDA Warns Against CAR-T Therapy Due to Possible Cancer Risk

FDA Warns Against CAR-T Therapy Due to Possible Cancer Risk

CAR-T Therapy Overview

Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cell (CAR-T) therapy involves utilizing a patient’s immune cells to combat specific blood cancers, including leukemia, multiple myeloma, and lymphoma. The process includes extracting T cells, genetically modifying them in a laboratory to target cancer cells, and then reintroducing them into the patient. CAR-T therapy has demonstrated remarkable efficacy, particularly in challenging cases.

FDA’s Decision and Rationale

The FDA’s decision to introduce boxed warnings stems from reports of rare blood cancers emerging in individuals previously treated with CAR-T therapy. According to Carly Kempler, an FDA spokesperson, the agency received 25 reports of such blood cancers in CAR-T patients, prompting the need for heightened safety measures. Despite the warning, the FDA emphasized that the overall benefits of CAR-T therapy still outweigh potential risks.

Underlying Concerns

Reports submitted to the FDA, along with findings published in the journal Blood late last year, suggested a potential link between CAR-T therapy and an increased cancer risk. Bruce Levine, a professor specializing in cancer gene therapy, noted that these findings likely influenced the FDA’s decision to issue the warning.

Response from Drugmakers

Several pharmaceutical companies, including Bristol Myers Squibb, Gilead Sciences’ Kite Pharma, Johnson & Johnson, and Novartis, received FDA notices to update their labels within 30 days. The updated labels are expected to acknowledge the rare instances where CAR-T therapy might elevate the risk of blood cancers. The drugmakers have the option to submit rebuttals if they disagree with the FDA’s directive.

Industry Statements

Novartis, a prominent player in CAR-T therapy with its drug Kymriah, expressed that it has not found sufficient evidence to establish a direct link between cancer and its treatment. However, the company pledged to collaborate with the FDA to update its label appropriately. Similarly, other drugmakers, including Johnson & Johnson and Gilead Sciences, affirmed their commitment to working with the FDA to revise labeling in line with safety considerations.

Patient Safety Priority

Bristol Myers Squibb emphasized its focus on patient safety and affirmed that it is evaluating next steps following the FDA’s notice. The pharmaceutical companies’ responses underscore their dedication to ensuring the well-being of patients undergoing CAR-T therapy.

Conclusion and Future Implications

As the FDA takes proactive measures to enhance safety warnings, the healthcare community will closely monitor developments. The balance between the groundbreaking benefits of CAR-T therapy and potential risks requires ongoing attention, emphasizing the need for continuous evaluation and transparent communication with patients.