FDA approves new gene therapy for blood cancer

By Ray Downs  |  Oct. 18, 2017 at 10:44 PM
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Oct. 18 (UPI) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a new form of cell-based gene therapy for adults with certain types of large B-cell lymphoma, marking only the second time a gene therapy has been approved for the disease.

The therapy is called Yescarta and will be used to treat patients with the deadly blood cancer who have not responded to other forms of treatment.

"Today marks another milestone in the development of a whole new scientific paradigm for the treatment of serious diseases," FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement. "In just several decades, gene therapy has gone from being a promising concept to a practical solution to deadly and largely untreatable forms of cancer."

Researchers call the gene therapy a "living drug" that attacks cancer cells through immunotherapy, which strengthens the immune system and has led to long remissions in some cases, reported the New York Times.

The FDA said diffuse large B-cell lymphoma is the most common type of non-Hodgkin's Lymphona in adults and there are approximately 72,000 new cases of NHL diagnosed in the United States each year.

Yescarta is administered once through the vein and will cost $373,000 for the shot.

The drug is produced by Kite Pharma, which is owned by pharmaceutical giant Gilead. After the FDA's announcement Wednesday., Gilead shares jumped 4 percent.

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