WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) – Wichita oncologist Dr. Bassam Mattar says in his 23 years of practicing medicine he has never seen anything like it. A breakthrough treatment gives hope to patients who previously risked being sentenced to death.
“On lymphoma, leukemia, myeloma, it’s been amazing. I have a bunch of people where I would have sent them to hospice, supposed to die within six months. Today up to 50% of those people survive and are probably cured, 48% if you want an exact number,” said Dr. Mattar of the Cancer Center of Kansas in Wichita.
Immunotherapy known as CAR T-cell therapy uses your own immune system to attack cancer.
“When we talk about immunotherapy and how it is different as a treatment modality, it works with our immune system and teaches it to strengthen itself. Train it to fight cancer cells to avoid toxicity and many of the side effects associated with traditional treatments like chemotherapy,” explained Dr. Christopher Dakhil, who works alongside Dr. Mattar at Kansas Cancer Center.
Here are the basic principles of how CAR T-cell therapy works:
Doctors take blood from the patient to obtain T cells. The cells of these patients are genetically modified to have special receptors called CAR T.
Millions of CAR T cells are grown in the laboratory and then infused into the patient. Then they get to work, and your own body targets the cancer cells.
Dr Mattar and Dr Dakhill said progress is happening faster than ever before, and treatments like CAR T may offer just the start of new breakthroughs in immunotherapy.
“I get up every day and I’m not tired because I feel like tomorrow is better than today and I can give more. I can treat the patient better. It’s always hard work to do because sometimes we have to deliver bad news to the young mom and young adult who can deal with it and die from it, but every day is better than yesterday and there is hope,” said Dr. Mattar. .
CAR T-cell therapy is approved and used primarily in blood cancers, but promising studies are underway in other types of cancer.
“We are studying it in other cancers. We’re also studying it in breast cancer, prostate cancer and other cancers, but we’re not there yet,” Dr. Mattar said.
Both doctors said there hasn’t been a more exciting time to work in their field.
“That’s really what drives us, it’s what gets us out of bed every morning to continue caring for cancer patients. It can be difficult at times, but when you see these successes, it really motivates you,” said Dr Dakhil.
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