‘It’s amazing to think about the opportunity we create with other colleagues in the CAR-T field where we see patients who have no options – refractory tumour patients where a doctor tells them we cannot do anything else for you – we can come in with a new therapy.’ At Cell Therapy Manufacturing & Gene Therapy Congress we sat down with Markwin Velders, Vice President of Operations of Kite Pharma, to discuss the use of CAR-T therapies as a revolutionary treatment for populations of patients who were previously untreatable.
Vedlers is excited by recent breakthroughs in the use of CAR-T therapies in cancer patients and confident that they’ll continue. He emphasises patient populations, such as those with non-Hodgkinson Lymphoma, that can ‘now be treated effectively and can even reach 60-70% remission’, a group ‘who never had that option before’. He describes it as ‘an unmet medical need where we make a difference’, which offers a hopeful insight into the progress Kite Pharma are currently making in the field.
Kite has had success using immunotherapies to treat haematological, or liquid tumours, but Velders feel that it is in the much ‘wider field’ of solid tumours that they should be looking to make progress on current therapies. Solid tumours make up the largest number of cancer sufferers, and Velders hopes to ‘embark on the next phases’ for treatment ‘where there are real chances for the therapy as well as other opportunities’.
The ‘double-edged sword’ of public opinion
Velders sees public opinion towards cell therapy as a ‘double-edged sword’. He explains that patients often find themselves charged ‘large amounts of money’ for ‘therapies which aren’t very effective’, which can often give the industry an unfavourable image. However, he notes that ‘generally people look at it as a pretty advanced field. It has a lot of opportunity, but it comes at a cost.’ If this is understood, and people continue to look towards ‘these new therapeutic routes and medicines’, it will expand the possibility of using cell therapies as viable treatment options for cancer patients.
Velders offers a range of advice for biotech start-ups seeking to take T-Cell immunotherapies to market, stressing the need to find ‘something that can make the difference’ as well as the importance of finding ‘a reliable investor’. Looking forward ‘to the next level of therapeutic approaches’ is vital, whilst still maintaining a reliable platform of scientific expertise.
For this Vedlers draws upon his own experiences at Kite with the ZUMA-1 Phase 2 trial, in which they’ve seen a response rate of up to 70% in patients with Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphoma. Such positive results offer a platform on which Velders hopes Kite can build an effective cell therapy model.
Watch the full interview with Markwin Velders, filmed at Cell Therapy Manufacturing & Gene Therapy Congress, above or here.