Immunotherapy promises high success rate in treating cancer

19 Sep 2019 / 12:43 H.

PETALING JAYA: Cancer is the fourth biggest killer in Malaysia, with a 61% death rate.

According to the Malaysian National Cancer Registry, one in 10 men and one in nine women in the country are at risk of developing the disease.

There are a variety of methods to treat the disease with the most common being chemotherapy.

However, chemotherapy, which kills cancerous cells, also kills good cells in the process, lowering the patient’s immune system, and some patients have to go through the treatment more than once.

But there is a breakthrough in cancer treatment in the form of immunotherapy, which utilises stem cells designed from the patient’s immune system to fight cancer.

“It is about engineering the stem cells and reactivating them from their dormant state, and after reactivating these cells, we insert them back into the patient.

“These new immunocells can target the cancer cells in the patient’s body,” said All Life group founder Dr Shengjiang Tan.

The cells developed by the patient’s immune system is targeted to suit the patient’s needs after some modification to recognise and kill the cancerous cells, he told theSun.

Another All Life Group founder, Dr Yuchun Gu, said this type of immunotherapy, called CAR-T (chimeric antigen receptor-T), has already been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to treat cancer patients, whereas research is being carried out to use CAR-NK (chimeric antigen receptor-NK) as another form of immunotherapy.

The special receptor binds to a certain protein on the patient’s cancer cells, which is added in the laboratory.

“This specific receptor is created in the laboratory that is designed to bind to certain proteins on cancer cells, attacking them, and killing them,” he said.

Gu added that based on clinical trials conducted in China and the United Kingdom, the success rate of immunotherapy in treating cancer is quite high.

He said All Life is trying to bring down the cost of cancer treatment using CAR-NK, as CAR-T therapy is currently very expensive.

“CAR-T costs about US$400,000 (RM1.67 million) for a one-time treatment.

“Our aim is for CAR-NK treatment to cost just 10% of that (US$400,000).”

Gu said All Life Group is planning to set up a centre in Malaysia to enable clinical trials to be done here so that Malaysians understand immunotherapy can be a viable treatment.

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