CAR-T Cell Therapy will it work? Biotech Stocks Part 1

Disclaimer: I do not have a background in finance. I do have a background in medicine.

I’m writing about CAR-T cell therapy because it’s been something I’ve been interested in for a while. I am not sure what impact it will have on biotech stocks or company valuations, but I believe it could be significant. How much of an impact depends on your personal view point.  Currently, there are a few ways to treat cancers. Right now there is chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, and immunotherapy. CAR-T is a quite a departure from current cancer treatment. CAR-T cell therapy is using the patient’s immune cells, in this case T-cells, to attack their cancer.

A simple overview would be the patient’s T-cells are taken and engineered to attack the patient’s cancer cell. This is done by harvesting the T-cells via a process called leukapheresis after which they are processed and sent to a laboratory for further processing. Once they are taken to the laboratory, they are modified via a virus to express a receptor that will accept a specific antigen associated with the cancer they’re targeting. The patient’s T-cell should then target only those cells with those antigens. In theory this should only target cancer cells, but obviously there are side effects which I will talk about in another post. Despite how advance this therapy is, it is currently only targeting heme malignancies and so its utility is very narrow. So the first thing you should note is that CAR-T cell therapy is currently only geared towards a very specific cancer called acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and diffuse large B-cell leukemia (DLBCL). These are B-cell cancers and are subset of hematologic cancers. I would say CAR-T cell therapy currently has the potential to be the next big therapy in cancer but currently its success is defined to a very small group of cancers. I will talk about the current therapies and companies in part 2.

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