The Belgian company Celyad has released the first interim clinical efficacy data for an off-the-shelf CAR T-cell immunotherapy in solid tumors.
The interim results come from an ongoing phase I trial in patients with colorectal cancer. Of the 12 patients given Celyad’s CAR T-cell immunotherapy so far, six have seen their tumors shrink. The therapy has also shown no evidence of causing graft-versus-host disease, a condition where foreign immune cells attack the host body.
Celyad’s CAR T-cell immunotherapy is aimed to overcome the drawbacks of CAR T-cell immunotherapies already in the market such as Kymriah and Yescarta. These therapies require immune T-cells to be extracted from patients and transported to labs when they can be genetically modified to fight cancer. This makes manufacturing hard and costly. Celyad’s off-the-shelf CAR-T therapy, on the other hand, would be ready to use in advance.
“Deriving cells from healthy donors as opposed to late-stage cancer patients also means that the yield and quality of harvested cells are higher, which should translate to lower production costs and fewer potential manufacturing failures,” Filippo Petti, CEO of Celyad, told me.
Going forward, another three patients will be enrolled in the first stage of the trial, and further results are expected in early 2020. Celyad then plans to expand the trial in mid-2020, with the total enrollment estimated to reach 36 patients.
There are other off-the-shelf CAR-T therapies in development, such as those of the French company Cellectis. According to David Gilham, Celyad’s VP of Research and Development, Celyad’s technology has a series of key advantages. First, it can target solid tumors. Second, Celyad’s therapy needs only one step to genetically modify its T-cells instead of the several steps that it takes for other companies to modify their T-cells.
While CAR T-cell immunotherapies have revolutionized the treatment of blood cancer, the field as a whole still has a lot of potential in other types of cancer. According to Petti, the development of off-the-shelf options is going to help companies to overcome obstacles to the adoption of cell therapies. These obstacles include high costs and regulatory difficulties in the manufacturing process.
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