Mahidol University has launched Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) modified T-cell therapy for the treatment of B-cell leukaemia, making Thailand the first country in the ASEAN region to adopt this advanced medical technique.
Banjong Mahaisawariya, President of Mahidol University, noted that the university’s ability to implement a therapy currently used for certain blood cancers came as a result of a strategic policy to promote integration between various departments, reports Bangkok Post.
CAR therapy is considered one of the few treatment options for patients with B-cell leukaemia, which is often more resistant to chemotherapy when compared to other types of cancer. Banjong expressed hope that the development of this therapy domestically would significantly reduce the financial burden of treatment, as importing it from overseas is quite expensive.
“This success will be key to the future of Thai medicine,” Banjong said.
Piyamitr Sritara, dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Ramathibodi Hospital, revealed that the faculty collaborated with other institutes, state agencies, and the private sector to trial CAR-T cell research and production in compliance with European Medicines Agency standards.
“Their work is now being reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in preparation for an application for international certification,” Sritara added.
The project has garnered support from the Institute for Technology and Innovation Management, the National Science and Technology Development Agency, the Health Systems Research Institute, the Program Management Unit Competitiveness, the Office of National Higher Education Science Research and Innovation Policy Council, and Rama Foundation and Genepeutic Bio Co Ltd.
Suradej Hongeng, a paediatrics lecturer at Ramathibodi Hospital, explained that research on this treatment began in 2014, with the therapy first tested on ten B-cell leukaemia patients who displayed positive results.
Regarding the production process, Hongeng said that researchers collect white blood cells from patients or their relatives, then culture and genetically modify them in the laboratory for approximately two to three weeks before offering the therapy to patients.
In some instances, it was reported that abnormalities in white blood cells vanished from blood and bone marrow within a two to four-week timeframe.
“CAR-T cell therapy can be produced locally, which will enable many Thais to access it,” Hongeng concluded.
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