HCA Healthcare UK introduces ground-breaking new blood cancer treatment

HCA Healthcare has announced the launch of CAR T-cell therapy - a ground-breaking new blood cancer treatment which will be available to eligible patients with certain types of lymphoma (including diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, primary mediastinal large B-cell lymphoma and transformed follicular lymphoma), before being introduced for patients with other blood cancers in the coming months.

CAR T-cell therapy is a complex treatment and will only be available at a small number of sites in the UK.  Reinforcing their status as one of the UK’s leaders in cancer treatment, HCA Healthcare UK will be one of the few highly specialised centres and among the first private providers to offer patients the latest CAR T-cell therapy in JACIE-IEC accredited units which are rated CQC “Outstanding”.

This revolutionary treatment will be available at HCA UK at University College Hospital and The Christie Private Care (part of HCA Healthcare UK) from this spring.

CAR T-Cell therapy (Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cell therapy) is a unique, first of its kind, treatment which uses a patient’s own T-cells to seek and destroy cancer cells – without the use of drugs.

Referred to by many as the ‘5th pillar of cancer treatment’ (following surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and targeted therapies), the arrival of CAR T-cell therapy marks a significant step forward in the treatment of blood cancer, bringing renewed hope to both patients and the medical world alike – and offering a glimpse of what treatment could look like for multiple tumour types in the future.

T-cells are a type of white blood cell which play a vital role in the immune system.  They discover and remove infection from the body (orchestrating an immune response to kill cells which have been infected by pathogens).  During this process T-cells use their protein receptors to latch on to antigens found on the surface of other cells and examine them; the T-cell will move on if the examined cell is healthy or release killer chemicals to destroy an infected cell.

Cancer has the ability to evade and fool the immune system.  It does this by disguising itself as a healthy cell or by creating multiple abnormal antigens on its surface which prevent the T-cell receptors from being able to latch on as they normally would.  This disables them from inspecting the cancer cell and identifying it as foreign and dangerous.

The cancer is then able to continue to grow and multiply without the essential intervention of the T-cells.  CAR T-cell therapy intervenes in this process by modifying T-cells, adding new targeted receptors which enable them to see and destroy cancer cells.  

To do this, patient’s T-cells are firstly collected in a process which is similar to a blood donation. Blood is removed through an intravenous drip in the patient’s arm and put through an apheresis machine which separates and collects the T-cells from the other blood cells (which are then returned to the body).

Next, the separated T-cells are sent to a laboratory where they are genetically altered by adding the Chimeric Antigen Receptors, turning them into ‘CAR T-cells’.

These newly engineered cells are then expanded in the lab and millions of them are infused back into the patient following a short course of conditioning chemotherapy. The T-cells new Chimeric Antigen Receptors enable them to latch onto a specific antigen on the patient’s tumour cells and destroy them.

Professor Stephen Mackinnon, one of the UK’s leading experts on Car T-Cell Therapy and Chair of the HCA Healthcare UK Blood Cancer Board says:

CAR T-cell therapy is a complex treatment and will only be available at a small number of sites in the UK. HCA Healthcare UK will be one of the first JACIE-IEC accredited private providers in the UK to offer CAR T-cell therapy.

Blood cancer is the third biggest cancer killer in the UK however, CAR T-cell therapy is a game-changing treatment for many patients.  So far, some patients who have undergone this treatment have shown a rapid and durable regression and remission that we haven’t observed in other recognised treatments.

This is a ‘first of a kind’ therapy and is a big moment for the treatment of cancer.  CAR T-cell therapy has the potential to revolutionise the approach to cancer treatment moving forward.”

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