On 18th October 2023, a team of researchers from Maynooth University, led by Professor Aisling McMahon (School of Law and Criminology, Maynooth University) and joined by Alanna Kells and Sinéad Masterson, launched a report on the topic of: ‘Access and Provision of CAR-T Therapies in Ireland for Cancer Care: The Current & Future Landscape, Opportunities and Challenges: Legal, Ethical and Broader Policy Considerations’. This report was developed as part of the Irish Research Council funded, ‘Patients’ Access to Advanced Cancer Therapies: Ethics and Equity of Access’ (PAACT) project (Professor Aisling McMahon, Principal Investigator) and was conducted in collaboration with Dr Frances Drummond, Breakthrough Cancer Research.
CAR-T therapy is a type of cancer immunotherapy which aims to use cells from a patient’s own immune system as part of the therapy. In simple terms, as part of the treatment, immune cells called T-cells are removed from the patient’s body, then outside the body these cells are modified so that they can target and kill cancer cells more effectively. The modified T-cells are then reinfused or put back into the patient’s body to treat the cancer. When this therapy is successful, in some cases it has led to cancer going into remission – where such patients were previously terminally ill with no other clinically indicated treatment options.
CAR-T therapies were approved by the European Medicines Agency for use in Europe in 2018 to treat certain types of blood cancers. The provision of CAR-T therapies commenced in Ireland in 2021 for adult patients and in 2022 for paediatric patients. Before this, patients based in Ireland (for whom such therapies were clinically indicated) needed to travel abroad to obtain CAR-T therapies. However, there are challenges for patients in accessing CAR-T therapies in Ireland. There are also challenges around providing CAR-T therapies within national public health systems, including, the high costs of such therapies under commercial routes.
The report provides an overview of the current landscape for the provision of CAR-T therapies for patients based in the Republic of Ireland, it also outlines some of the main challenges for patients in accessing such therapies, and at a health systems level in providing CAR-T therapies. It concludes by offering ten main policy recommendations which aim to promote a deeper multi-disciplinary conversation around the provision of CAR-T therapies in Ireland and which calls for a national strategy to deliver more sustainable and affordable pathways to increase the development and provision of CAR-T therapies in Ireland in future.
The full text of he report is available to download here: Access and Provision of CAR-T Therapies in Ireland for Cancer Care