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In a recent achievement, India has recorded its first successful use of CAR-T cell therapy for cancer treatment. This treatment modifies the patient’s immune system to combat cancer, and it has been approved for use by India’s drug authorities.

The patient, Dr. (Col) VK Gupta, underwent treatment at Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai, after being diagnosed with cancer. The treatment, developed by ImmunoAct, IIT Bombay, and Tata Memorial Hospital, involves modifying the patient’s immune cells (T cells) in a lab to detect and attack cancer cells.

Gupta is now cancer-free, according to medical professionals at the hospital. This remarkable achievement is a testament to the effectiveness of CAR-T cell therapy and the expertise of the medical team involved. The cost of the treatment, which would have been around Rs 3-4 crore outside India, was significantly lower, at Rs 42 lakhs, thanks to the country’s drug authorities approving its use. This has made the treatment more accessible to Indian patients who may not have been able to afford it otherwise.

So far, fifteen Indian patients have undergone CAR-T cell therapy, and three have successfully achieved cancer remission. Gupta’s success story is a light of hope for cancer patients, and medical progress in India and the entire world.

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What is CAR-T cell therapy?

Chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy, commonly referred to as CAR-T cell therapy, is an innovative treatment targeting certain cancers. It leverages the patient’s immune system to identify and destroy cancer cells.

The process begins by collecting T-cells from the patient’s blood and then genetically modifying them to create CAR-T cells. Designed to recognize and attack cancer cells, these modified cells undergo expansion in the lab. Finally, the team reinfuses these expanded cells into the patient.

This therapy has delivered promising results; patients have seen a significant decrease in cancer cell count and a rise in hemoglobin levels within just two weeks of treatment. From collecting blood to the T-cell transfusion, the entire process spans approximately two weeks. Offering new hope to cancer patients, this innovative treatment becomes accessible through schemes such as the Ex-Servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS).

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How does CAR-T cell therapy work?

Here’s a step-by-step guide to creating a successful CAR-T cell therapy:

Step 1: T Cell Collection

The first step involves collecting T cells from the patient’s blood using leukapheresis, which separates the T cells from the other blood cells.

Step 2: T Cell Modification

After collecting the T cells, scientists then genetically modify them to produce chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) on their surface. These CARs, being proteins, enable the T cells to identify and bind to specific antigens on cancer cells. To accomplish this, scientists use a virus that transports the CAR gene directly into the cell.

Step 3: T Cell Expansion

After the T cells have been modified, they are expanded in the lab using cell culture. This involves providing the T cells with the necessary nutrients and growth factors to multiply and grow.

Step 4: T Cell Infusion

After expanding the T cells, medical professionals then infuse them back into the patient’s body, enabling these cells to navigate towards and start attacking the cancer cells directly.

Step 5: Monitoring and Management

After the T cells have been infused, patients are monitored for side effects and response to the therapy. This monitoring may involve regular blood tests, imaging studies, and clinic visits. If patients experience severe side effects, such as cytokine release syndrome (CRS), they may require hospitalization and additional treatment.

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