[WSJ] New Costly Cancer Treatments Face Hurdles Getting to Patients

Cancer treatments that genetically modify patients’ blood cells to target the disease have shown amazing results in clinical trials. Now drug companies and biotechs must overcome big hurdles to get them into hospitals, including their potential cost.

In two separate clinical trials—sponsored by Novartis AG NOVN.VX +0.39% of Switzerland and Seattle-based biotech Juno Therapeutics Inc.—almost 90% of patients saw their leukemia disappear after being given experimental so-called CAR T-cell therapies. The results were published in December and February, respectively.

Both trials were in small numbers of patients: 22 children in the Novartis trial and 16 adults in the Juno trial. The patients had acute lymphoblastic leukemia—the most common childhood cancer—and had exhausted standard treatments. Both companies are now conducting larger trials.

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