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It’s perhaps not a well-known condition, but cytokine release syndrome (CRS) is a potentially severe and life-threatening adverse reaction to cancer immunotherapy that happens all too often. It is caused by high levels of immune system activation that is stimulated by immunotherapy.

CRS causes a range of symptoms that may include decreased or increased body temperature, nausea, headache, rash, rapid heartbeat, low blood pressure and difficulty breathing.

The main problem with CRS in cancer patients undergoing immunotherapy is that even if the cancer immunotherapy is fighting the cancer successfully, the condition and effects means that the treatment can no longer continue, and can in some cases be fatal.

Australian stem cell and regenerative medicine company, Cynata Therapeutics Limited (ASX: CYP) has tested its stem cells (mesenchymal stem cells) in mouse models with CRS, resulting in statistically significant improvements.

Cynata’s MSCs were able to ameliorate the effects of CRS, potentially enabling the immunotherapy to continue in affected patients.

Cynata said it intends to partner with companies developing cancer immunotherapies to evaluate the treatment approach in humans.

Dr Kilian Kelly, Cynata’s Vice President, Product Development, said, “Cancer immunotherapy is one of the most exciting fields in medicine today, offering a potentially curative treatment option to patients with an otherwise intractable and advanced disease.

“CRS is a common, unpredictable and potentially fatal complication that may limit treatment uptake. These results suggest that administering a single dose of Cymerus MSCs before, during or even shortly after cancer immunotherapy treatment may provide significant therapeutic benefit and a straightforward way of limiting adverse CRS reactions.”

The study was led by Associate Professor Lisa Minter, Ph.D., at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The study assigned the mice randomly to a control group or a treatment group that received Cymerus MSCs.

Twenty-four hours after CRS induction, statistically significant improvements in body temperature and clinical scores were demonstrated in the treated animals relative to those in the control group.

Cancer immunotherapy is a hot topic in biotech, and Cynata’s stem cells could have the potential to improve the survival rates of cancer patients undergoing the therapy, in particular CAR-T therapy, also called chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy.

CAR-T has been shown to be highly effective in treating types of blood cancers and is peaking the interest of big pharma.

Gilead paid almost US$12 billion to acquire CAR-T developer Kite Pharma in May 2018, and Celgene acquired cancer immunotherapy developer Juno Therapeutics in a US$9 billion deal earlier in 2018.

 

This content is produced by Star Investing in commercial partnership with Cynata Therapeutics. This article does not constitute financial product advice. You should consider obtaining independent advice before making any financial decisions.