St James Hospital in Dublin opens the first clinical trial in Ireland using cutting-edge cell therapy to treat blood cancer. It will give access to a small number of patients suffering from multiple myeloma in order to evaluate the use of Car-T as a frontline therapy. Researchers are hoping this therapy will help patients to benefit from “sustained remission”.

Multiple myeloma is the second most common blood cancer, with about 2,200 people living with it and 350 people newly diagnosed annually. It starts in the bone marrow, most commonly affects people aged over 65 and is more common in men than women. Multiple myeloma is incurable, with an average survival time of eight to 10 years.

Car-T (Chimeric Antigen Receptor – T cell) is a “living drug” that modifies the body’s T cells so they can better recognise and attack cancer. It involves collecting a patient’s T cells, part of the immune system, which are re-engineered to target cancer cells. The modified T cells are then reinfused in patients.

Consultant haematologist Dr Larry Bacon said Car-T used in this trial had proven its worth in relapsed patients who had tried up to eight lines of other therapy. Its two-year survival rate is 70 per cent. Car-T was first licensed in the US against leukaemia in 2017. Since then, researchers have been seeking to extend its repertoire against other forms of cancer.