By David Chang, M.D., Ph.D.
In the first decade of the 1900s, anyone could get an automobile. Sears sold them out of their iconic catalogue. Of course, that required waiting at the train depot, uncrating the vehicle and doing a bit of assembly on your own.
Not too long after, though, the Model T changed everything: easier to drive, more powerful and — most famously — created at scale on an assembly line. It rolled off ready to drive. Ford didn’t invent the automobile or even make it popular. But Ford changed how the world thought about cars.
Oncology is on the edge of a similar transformation. Innovative new techniques that leverage an individual’s own immune cells to defeat cancer are changing the game. Right now, however, they rely on a cumbersome, bespoke process.
What’s required for the next great leap is technology that can democratize the process — the way the Model T did — to make it easier to deliver the therapies that hold the promise of improvements for patient outcomes, greater access to treatments and potential savings to the overall health care system.
That is the goal of Allogene — to lead the next revolution in cell therapy. Our approach is the development of allogeneic CAR T products. To understand where we plan to go, we need to look at where we are.
Where we are now: Autologous CAR T therapy
Autologous CAR T therapy combines cells from an individual’s own immune system with cancer-killing technology. Development of this therapy was a major step forward for patients with late-stage blood cancers.
But autologous CAR T requires waiting and uncertainty — waiting to secure a manufacturing slot, waiting for harvesting of cells from each patient, waiting to see if their cells can be individually manufactured, and finally, waiting for their cells to be returned to the clinic and reinfused.
Unfortunately, waiting is not an option for some patients.
Eliminating the wait
Rather than utilizing the patients’ own cells, Allogene is developing AlloCAR T™ products that start with healthy donor cells that can be isolated in a manufacturing facility and then engineered to recognize and destroy cancer cells. These engineered cells can then be stored as an “off-the-shelf” option for patients.
AlloCAR Ts have the potential to improve the patient experience, improve population health outcomes and reduce healthcare costs, and, potentially, optimize technology to bring CAR T innovation to the treatment of solid tumors. How might this be possible if these therapies are approved?
- Simpler logistics with donor-based cells instead of patient-based cells.
- On-demand, readily available products.
- Scalable manufacturing to treat 100+ patients from a single manufacturing run.
- Multiplex gene editing and engineering capabilities to address the inherent complexities associated with solid tumors.
Advancing the revolution
Real progress doesn’t simply come from the development of new technologies, it comes from how we use that technology to develop new therapies that benefit patients. At Allogene, our expertise is in utilizing a toolbox of technologies to create therapies and navigating complex science and development landscapes to bring new, innovative solutions to patients.
We believe that the initial data we are generating demonstrates the potential for AlloCAR T products for the treatment of hematologic malignancies. At the upcoming 2021 ASH Meeting, we are excited to share new data from three of our clinical trials in patients with a variety of blood cancers including relapsed or refractory non-Hodgkin lymphoma and multiple myeloma.
Patients… the health care system… even the FDA is excited about the potential of allogeneic CAR T
For us at Allogene, it’s impossible not to get excited about what we believe we can do for patients. Our ultimate goal with AlloCAR T is to create greater access to CAR T therapy, and potentially allow patients to receive treatment at an earlier stage and more quickly than autologous CAR T, which may lower overall healthcare costs.
We are not in this fight alone. Patients, physicians, industry and even the Food and Drug Administration’s leadership has recently singled out allogeneic CAR T as a treatment that may hold promise to increase access and decrease costs. We applaud the agency, which continues to work closely with us and the industry to expedite the development of new, breakthrough solutions for patients with cancer.
Everyone in this field has one single, solitary enemy: cancer. We take pride in moving the field forward to revolutionize the future of cancer immunotherapy.
Dr. Chang is President, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, Allogene Therapeutics
AlloCAR T™ is a trademark of Allogene Therapeutics, Inc.