Stimulating the body’s immune system to fight cancer, is increasingly the treatment choice of oncologists in treating patients.
One breakthrough treatment for hard-to-beat blood cancers is CAR T-cell therapy.
This treatment received approval for use in Singapore in 2021 and the country remains the only place in Southeast Asia to have approved CAR T-cell centres.
New Hope for Better Outcomes
CAR T-cell therapy is defined by Dr Dawn Mya Hae Tha as “a form of immunotherapy as well as targeted cell therapy”.
“It is an individualised and personalised treatment for patients with a type of lymphoma called diffuse large B-cell lymphoma” says the Haematologist at Parkway Cancer Centre (PCC).
“Also, children and young adults up to 25 years of age with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia” she adds, are candidates for the complex course of this new treatment.
Apart from the team of haematologists, CAR T-cell therapy treatments will involve a specialised team, from apheresis nurses to transplant coordinators and more. All must work together and even pass audits that a CAR T-cell centre must maintain to remain operational.
Dr Mya recognises the role of the multidisciplinary team in managing potential side effects of CAR T-cell therapy, including cytokine release syndrome (CRS).
The reintroduced CAR T-cells multiplying in the body can release large amounts of chemicals called cytokines into the blood, explains the haematologist. These inflammatory molecules can cause symptoms like fever, aches and pains and in severe cases, lead to low blood pressure and breathing difficulties.
As Dr Diong also points out, “CRS can be a fatal condition”. Therefore, a multidisciplinary team approach that combines expertise, is key in managing patients undergoing treatment.