Pharmaceutical firms have tended to be wary of the CAR technique because it is technically challenging, must be personalized to the patient and faces an untested path to regulatory approval, says Steven Rosenberg, head of the tumor immunology section at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland.
But this seems to be changing. Rosenberg points to a collaboration formed in August last year between June's group and the drug giant Novartis, as well as the launch of several small CAR-focused biotechnology firms. And Sadelein says that he is an investigator on a trial with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts, to test whether the technique can be exported to other treatment centers, among other outcomes.
Brentjens, meanwhile, is happy to have his patients in fighting spirits again. “You see these people at their lowest low emotionally as well as physically,” he says. “And now you can tell they’re in better shape because they’re making fun of your tie again.”