Diagnosis & Treatment
General Oncology

Cancer immunotherapy in Germany: University Hospital Regensburg

Cancer immunotherapy in Germany: University Hospital Regensburg

University Hospital Regensburg is ready to offer patients with lymphoma and leukemia a new kind of cancer immunotherapy in Germany – CAR T-cell therapy, previously approved in the US.

The innovative treatment option for B-cell lymphoma and leukemia, which is very expensive in US clinics, will become much more affordable for German patients and medical tourists.

Effective and affordable CAR T-cell therapy (CAR-T-Zelltherapie) will be available at the University Hospital Regensburg in Eastern Bavaria since 2019.

This technology combines the latest achievements of genetics and oncology. Doctors remove immune cells, modify them with special receptors to detect tumor and return to the patient's body.

New T-cells are able to recognize and destroy malignant cells throughout the body. This gives a unique chance to defeat lymphoma, which is resistant to standard treatment options.

CAR T-cell cancer immunotherapy in Germany: prospects

In 2018, chimeric antigenic receptors (CAR) for the modification of patient's T-lymphocytes become a revolutionary treatment strategy. Within a few months European clinics quickly introduced and even improved sophisticated American technologies.

The problem is that CAR T-cell immunotherapy in leading US clinics costs about $ 1 million. This is a huge burden on local healthcare, and for most medical tourists this cost is too high.

University Hospital Regensburg (Universitätsklinikum Regensburg) will become one of the few clinics in Germany that will offer its patients CAR T-cell therapy for the treatment of lymphoma. This method has already been approved in the US, United Kingdom and Israel.

To adapt the technology for the treatment of other cancers, Regensburg Center for Interventional Immunology (Das Regensburger Centrum für Interventionelle Immunologie) has created a genetic immunotherapy division. In the coming years we will see not only a copy of American technologies, but also new methods of cancer immunotherapy in Germany.

On September 15 we celebrated World Lymphoma Awareness Day.

In lymphomas, malignant cancer cells have a devastating effect on the immune system.

The surgeon's scalpel cannot do anything against tumors of the lymphatic system; therefore scientists of the whole world work on new systemic treatment options.

20,000 cases of lymphoma are newly diagnosed every year in Germany. In most cases, local oncologists use aggressive chemotherapy and stem cell transplantation. In the US, genetic immunotherapy, in particular CAR T-cell therapy, has long been one of the main methods of treating lymphoma and other cancers. The problem is only in its fantastic cost.

Approximately one year after the approval of two immunotherapies for leukemia and B-cell lymphoma in the US, innovative technologies have come to Europe. One of them will be offered at the University Hospital Regensburg next year. New treatment is expected to be at least twice cheaper than in the US.

New options for treating lymphoma in Bavaria

As we have already said, in CAR T-cell therapy the patient's leukocytes are extracted from the blood, purified and supplied with special antigen receptors for detecting cancer cells.

Modified in this way, T-leukocytes are injected back into the bloodstream, where they immediately begin to recognize, to attack and destroy malignant cells. This treatment is much better tolerated than traditional cytotoxic chemotherapy.

The approval of anti-CD19 CAR T-cells for the treatment of lymphoma and leukemia is an important step, because genetic immunotherapy can be used even in cases when other treatment options failed. According to UKR Professor Hinrich Abken, this innovative strategy is still associated with serious risks, so it can only be used in specialized centers.

His colleague Dr. Simone Thomas from Regensburg Center for Interventional Immunology was impressed with the results of such procedures in the United States clinics.

If RCI staff succeeds, cancer immunotherapy in Germany will transform the treatment of deadly solid tumors, such as breast malignancies, stomach cancer and lung cancer

Both researchers received valuable experience during their visits to the United States.

Now they are ready to apply this experience to benefit of German patients and foreign medical tourists, developing this amazing technology in their own University.

Dr. Thomas conducts one of the first clinical studies of CAR-T cell therapy for multiple myeloma and leukemia in Germany. We will certainly see amazing achievements in this area. In early 2019, patients with diffuse or primary mediastinal large B-cell lymphoma will receive innovative genetic immunotherapy in Bavaria.

University Hospital Regensburg: forefront of the war against cancer

Scientists from Regensburg participate in research and apply innovative approaches to immunotherapy at the forefront of the war against cancer.

The Center for Somatic Cellular Therapy (José Carreras Centrum für Somatische Zelltherapie) specializes in the manufacture of cellular therapy drugs and components for immunotherapy. This makes Regensburg one of the outposts of interventional immunology in Germany. Professor Hinrich Abken is one of the world-recognized pioneers in this area of modern medicine.

Professor says that the effectiveness of CAR T-cells for solid tumors is very limited for a number of reasons. Scientists intend to overcome these obstacles by optimizing the production of immune cells and improving the mechanisms of their action.

If RCI staff succeeds, cancer immunotherapy in Germany will transform the treatment of deadly solid tumors, such as breast malignancies, stomach cancer and lung cancer.

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