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FDA advisers back CAR-T therapies in blood cancer, despite safety concerns

A panel of expert advisers to the Food and Drug Administration on Friday voted in favor of expanding the use of CAR-T therapy in blood cancer, despite concerns about the powerful treatment’s side effects.

The group voted 11-0 that the benefits of Carvykti, a CAR-T medicine from Johnson & Johnson and Legend Biotech, outweighed its risk for patients with multiple myeloma whose disease has persisted despite initial treatment. The same panel voted 8-3 in favor of Abecma, from Bristol Myers Squibb and 2seventy Bio, for multiple myeloma patients who’ve received at least two lines of therapy. Currently both medicines are approved only for patients who have been treated for myeloma with four or more medications.

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In clinical trials, each drug proved to significantly delay disease progression compared to standard therapy. But zooming in on the data, the FDA observed an alarming imbalance of deaths in the early months of both studies, finding that more patients in the CAR-T group died of myeloma or side effects than those receiving the standard of care.

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