Cellular therapy with CAR-T cells, aimed at patients with blood cancer and which costs up to US$ 1 million per patient when made with imported inputs, should cost up to 5% of this value when developed by the two centers delivered by the government of São Paulo, Instituto Butantan, the Regional Blood Center of Ribeirão Preto and the University of São Paulo in recent days. In June, the facilities of the Advanced Therapy Centers (Nutera) were inaugurated in Ribeirão Preto (SP) and in São Paulo (SP). Together they will be able to treat 300 cancer patients per year, making this the largest advanced cancer treatment program in Latin America.
According to the hematologist and president of Instituto Butantan, Dimas Covas, leader of the initiative, because the treatment is done completely within the centers and made available by the Unified Health System (SUS), there is a great reduction and optimization of costs.
“We are talking about a therapy developed by the public sector, with research financed by the public sector, with public sector investment and, therefore, already with a differential in relation to the amounts involved. The projected costs are in the order of 3% to 5% of what is practiced abroad because these studies are all public, developed with public resources and that is our objective,” Dimas points out.
According to the president of Butantan, having a treatment of this level in Brazilian public health is only possible thanks to the investment and joint work of all the institutions involved.
“Our combined efforts allow for this advancement that, without a doubt, will remain in the history of this moment that is so important for the post-pandemic recovery,” he concludes.
Understand the therapy
The São Paulo (Nucel) and Ribeirão Preto (Nutera) units have structures that allow the production, development and storage of CAR-T cells, which will be used in a clinical trial at the Hospital das Clínicas in São Paulo, Hospital das Clínicas de Ribeirão Preto and the Hospital das Clínicas of the State University of Campinas (Unicamp) on 30 patients that did not obtain satisfactory results with traditional cancer treatment. In all, R$ 200 million were invested in building the two centers.
The facilities include quality control laboratories, cryopreservation rooms, virus production rooms, clean rooms for the production of CAR-T cells and for the preparation of media and solutions, as well as areas for the storage of the final product and inputs in cryogenic tanks.
In Brazil, CAR-T cell therapy was developed at the Center for Cell-based Therapy at the Ribeirão Preto Medical School at USP. The first volunteer from Brazil, who received the experimental treatment two years ago, achieved total remission of an end-stage lymphoma. Other patients who opted for the treatment also experienced remission.
“It is the modern way of doing science. Making the research reach the end, which is the patient, is what we all want,” emphasizes Dimas Covas.