Dr. Natasha Kekre
Scientist and Hematologist at the Ottawa Hospital
CAR-T cell therapy offers a fighting chance to patients with cancer in Canada.
More than a dozen people with cancer who had exhausted all treatments are alive and cancer-free thanks to a pioneering Canadian clinical trial of a highly personalized immunotherapy.
Patients in the clinical trial at The Ottawa Hospital and BC Cancer had their T cells removed and genetically engineered to enhance their cancer-killing ability. The supercharged immune cells, called CAR-T cells, were then infused back into the same patient. Health Canada has approved several commercial CAR-T therapies, but access is restricted to people with just a few kinds of leukemia and lymphoma and in certain age ranges.
Canadian-Led Immunotherapies in Cancer-01 (CLIC-01) is the first trial to manufacture CAR-T therapy in Canada. “Without this trial, I don’t think any of these patients would be alive today, so we’re very encouraged by these results,” says Dr. Natasha Kekre, a scientist and hematologist at The Ottawa Hospital, associate professor at the University of Ottawa, and principal investigator of CLIC-01. “So far, we’re seeing an average progression-free survival of six months, which is very good in this patient population.”
Participant Camille Leahy says, “I feel better than I’ve felt in a very long time. Being able to drive again and take my daughter to her softball games means the world to me. Even if the cancer comes back, this has given me precious time, and I know the research will help many others. It has given me a fighting chance.”
“Canadian patients deserve access to the best cancer treatments in the world, and we need Canadian research to make this happen,” says Dr. Kekre.
The trial is supported by BioCanRx, BC Cancer, the BC Cancer Foundation, The Ottawa Hospital Foundation, the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation, and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada.