US approves first cancer drug to use patient’s own cells – with $475,000 price tag

Source: The Guardian

 in New York

US regulators have approved the first cancer drug that uses a patient’s own cells to fight cancer. But the drug is priced at $475,000.

Oncologists described the drug, made by Novartis and marketed as Kymriah, as revolutionary, but critics say the first-of-its-kind cancer treatment could usher in a new class of ultra-expensive medications.

Kymriah will be a one-time, intravenous treatment patients receive after scientists at Novartis engineer a patient’s own immune cells (T-cells) to fight cancer. The drug will treat acute lymphocytic leukemia, the most common type of childhood cancer in the US.

Currently, standard treatments push about 85% of children into remissions of five years or longer, according to the American Cancer Society. Kymriah would treat patients who don’t respond to standard treatment, probably only a few hundred children and young adults per year.

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