ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- It's a landmark new cancer treatment that U of R's Wilmot Cancer Institute played a part in developing. On Wednesday, the FDA approved what researchers are calling a "living drug.” The treatment was developed to specifically fight diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, an aggressive type of blood cancer.
Known as Yescarta, the therapy genetically reprograms a patient's white blood cells, retraining them to attack cancer cells. Assistant Professor of Medicine Dr. Patrick Reagan personally worked on the clinical trials at the Wilmot Cancer Institute, and says they saw a response in 80 percent of patients. But that's not all the new drug did.
"Of those patients, about 50 percent of them went into a complete remission or a complete response,” said Reagan. “That means when we did a scan to evaluate their body, there was no evidence of cancer on that scan that we did."
This comes as good news to patients currently fighting the disease, and those who have beaten it. Bruce Bolger, a survivor of large cell lymphoma, underwent chemotherapy in 2012, and again in 2013. Since then, he sells pumpkins from his front lawn to raise money for the Wilmot Cancer Institute.
"I can't say how much I think we all need to be thankful to have places like Wilmot and other centers around the country that are working together, not just on their own but together to find these new therapies,” said Bolger. “That might give someone a longer life or might be cancer free for the rest of their life and that’s just an awesome thing that we have such a great facility right here in Rochester to be working on that."
Yescarta by the Pharmaceutical Company Kite, is a treatment to be administered just once to each patient is priced at $373,000. Doctors from the Wilmot Cancer Institute say the treatment will be available by the end of the year.