Novartis Engineered Immune Cells Delay Cancer Advance in Study

Novartis AG’s experimental immune therapy delayed cancer progression in patients with advanced lymphoma in a study, boosting a new but unproven category of drugs.

In a mid-stage trial of Novartis’s CTL019 in 18 people who were considered to have less than two years to live, the drug stopped the disease from worsening in 59 percent of patients after six months, according to data to be presented this month.

Novartis’s drug is one of a new class of therapies called CAR-T that involve taking immune cells from a patient, engineering them and returning them to the body to hunt and kill cancer cells. In a previous trial of the treatment in leukemia patients with no remaining options, 90 percent went into remission.

Juno Therapeutics Inc. and Kite Pharma Inc. are also developing CAR-T therapies.

The Novartis treatment had side effects, with most patients experiencing a potentially dangerous over-stimulation of the immune system. Some experienced abnormal brain function including delirium.

The data was published in a summary on the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s website, and will be presented at the group’s annual meeting in Chicago later this month.

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