FDA approves first-ever gene therapy treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia

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FDA approves first-ever gene therapy treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia

By Michael Johnsen - 08/30/2017

SILVER SPRING, Md. — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a historic action today making the first gene therapy available in the United States, ushering in a new approach to the treatment of cancer and other serious and life-threatening diseases.



The FDA approved Novartis' Kymriah (tisagenlecleucel) for certain pediatric and young adult patients with a form of acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Kymriah is the first therapy based on gene transfer approved by the FDA.



“At Novartis, we have a long history of being at the forefront of transformative cancer treatment,” said Joseph Jimenez, CEO of Novartis. “Five years ago, we began collaborating with the University of Pennsylvania and invested in further developing and bringing what we believed would be a paradigm-changing immunocellular therapy to cancer patients in dire need. With the approval of Kymriah, we are once again delivering on our commitment to change the course of cancer care.”



“We are so proud to be part of this historic moment in cancer treatment and are deeply grateful to our researchers, collaborators, and the patients and families who participated in the Kymriah clinical program,” added Bruno Strigini, CEO of Novartis Oncology. “As a breakthrough immunocellular therapy for children and young adults who desperately need new options, Kymriah truly embodies our mission to discover new ways to improve patient outcomes and the way cancer is treated.”



"We're entering a new frontier in medical innovation with the ability to reprogram a patient's own cells to attack a deadly cancer," stated FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. "New technologies such as gene and cell therapies hold out the potential to transform medicine and create an inflection point in our ability to treat and even cure many intractable illnesses. At the FDA, we're committed to helping expedite the development and review of groundbreaking treatments that have the potential to be life-saving."



"Kymriah is a first-of-its-kind treatment approach that fills an important unmet need for children and young adults with this serious disease," said Peter Marks, director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. "Not only does Kymriah provide these patients with a new treatment option where very limited options existed, but a treatment option that has shown promising remission and survival rates in clinical trials."



Kymriah, a cell-based gene therapy, is approved in the United States for the treatment of patients up to 25 years of age with B-cell precursor ALL that is refractory or in second or later relapse.



Kymriah is a genetically-modified autologous T-cell immunotherapy. Each dose of Kymriah is a customized treatment created using an individual patient's own T-cells, a type of white blood cell known as a lymphocyte. The patient's T-cells are collected and sent to a manufacturing center where they are genetically modified to include a new gene that contains a specific protein (a chimeric antigen receptor or CAR) that directs the T-cells to target and kill leukemia cells that have a specific antigen (CD19) on the surface. Once the cells are modified, they are infused back into the patient to kill the cancer cells.



Novartis plans additional filings for Kymriah in the U.S. and EU later this year, including applications with the FDA and European Medicines Agency, for the treatment of adult patients with r/r diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL). Additional filings beyond the U.S. and EU are anticipated in 2018.