India’s own CAR-T cell therapy: What is it, when will it be available, and at what cost?

India is on the precipice of a significant breakthrough in the field of cancer treatment with the development of its own CAR-T cell therapy. It is a revolutionary, gene-modified, cancer-killing therapy that has shown promising results in treating blood cancers.

CAR-T cell therapy, also known as Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cell therapy, is a form of immunotherapy where the patient’s own T cells (a type of immune system cell) are genetically altered to fight cancer cells. The T cells are removed from the patient, reengineered to target specific proteins on cancer cells, multiplied in the laboratory, and then infused back into the patient. The genetically modified T cells then actively seek out and destroy the cancer cells.

This groundbreaking treatment has primarily been developed and used in western countries, being approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of certain types of lymphomas and leukaemias. The success of CAR-T cell therapy in these contexts has prompted India to develop its own version of this potentially life-saving treatment.

The Medical and Research Development wing of Indian biotechnology company, Biocon, is currently in the development stage for India’s first CAR-T cell therapy. The latest reports suggest that they’re planning to launch the drug for clinical trials by the end of 2022 or early 2023.

The most frequently asked question about this treatment is concerning its cost. In the United States, CAR-T therapy can cost up to $375,000 for a single course of treatment. However, Biocon plans to make it accessible to the mass Indian population, for an estimated price of INR 15-20 lakh (approximately $20,000-$27,000). This would make the treatment far more affordable and accessible for Indian cancer patients than its foreign counterparts.

India’s move to develop its own CAR-T cell therapy signifies a major step towards self-reliance in advanced cancer treatments. It also holds the promise of not only providing an effective treatment option for Indian patients battling lethal types of cancer but also potentially reducing the associated financial burden.

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