Kazakhstan aims to use breakthrough therapy for blood cancer treatment

Breakthrough treatment of oncohematological patients will soon appear in Kazakhstan. The CAR-T cell technology is being transferred to the country by the scientists from the National Center for Biotechnology. In November, its staff will go to the United Kingdom to adopt best practices of foreign specialists.

Today, blood cancer is one of the ten most common types of cancer. Chemotherapy remains the primary treatment for these hematological diseases. In some cases, stem cells are transplanted to patients. However, in some situations, patients need Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cell therapy. For example, when all other methods are already ineffective or when the condition is advanced.

“That is a combination of genetic and cell engineering, which has long been called Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cell therapy or CAR-T. Basically, T-cells are taken from the patient’s blood and are changed in the lab in a special way so that they become more active in the destruction of tumor cells,” Alexander Shustov, Head of Genetic Engineering Laboratory, said.

Such treatment is not affordable for every patient living abroad. For example, in the United States, the cost is up to US$300-400,000. The price in China is slightly lower. The key stages of CAR-T will be transferred to Kazakhstan to make the treatment affordable for the country’s citizens. Expensive equipment has already been purchased for the laboratory of the National Center for Biotechnology.

“The state gives special research grants and programs for this purpose. Presently, we are working under the program of the Ministry of Health. The funding was allocated to procure special equipment, which is expensive. We also need money to learn how to work on it. By the end of next year, we will be ready to develop the materials, all the necessary reagents, and we will begin experimental treatment of the first six patients,” Yerlan Ramankulov, Director General of the National Center for Biotechnology, said.

Before that, the laboratory of the National Center for Biotechnology will conduct a long phase of clinical research. In vitro cell culture testing method will be the first one. Next, the therapy will be tested on animals, and then on patients.

Correspondent Aigerim Akimzhanova:

- To date, Kazakhstan has confirmed about 7,000 patients with leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma, which are also called blood cancer. More than a thousand new cases are detected each year. Most patients conquer the disease, but one-fifth of them still need Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cell therapy.

Experts say that in the future, this high-tech therapy will be used not only for the treatment of blood cancer, but also for the treatment of chronic, autoimmune and infectious diseases.