US regulators approve anti-cancer gene therapy that uses patient's own immune system

US regulators have approved the first gene therapy against cancer, a treatment which uses a patient's own immune cells to fight leukaemia.

The patient's immune cells (T-cells) are removed with a special blood filtration process and genetically encoded in a lab to hunt down cancer cells.

These re-engineered T-cells are then transfused back into the patient, where they can begin attacking leukemia.

The treatment is made by Novartis and is called Kymriah (tisagenlecleucel).

"This marks the first-ever CAR-T cell therapy (anti-cancer immunotherapy) to be approved anywhere in the world," Novartis CEO Joseph Jimenez told reporters on a conference call.

"It uses a new approach that is wholly personalized by using a patient's own T-cells."

83% of patients have responded to the treatment, achieving remission within three months, Novartis said. The therapy is also cheaper than alternative bone marrow transplants.

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