Personalized medicine is here, in Romania and at the highest level of sophistication and customization. The first adult and paediatric patients were successfully treated at the Fundeni Clinical Institute with CAR-T cell therapy, which represents the highest level of personalization of a treatment available now.
The first CAR-T therapy approved is indicated in some severe forms, for which there were no other treatment solutions, leukaemia (in children) and lymphoma (in adults). The T cells of the cancer patient were extracted from the body, genetically modified in a specialized laboratory outside Romania, after which they were transported back to the hospital and administered in a single infusion to that person.
Success rates are remarkable, and in many cases the survival of more than 10 years (the case of Emily Whitehead, the first child treated in this way in the first clinical trials in the US) leads us to think of a cure for otherwise lethal cancers in the short term.
It sounds like science fiction for an Eastern European country, but it has been happening for a few weeks in Romania, under the coordination of professors Anca Colita and Alina Daniela Tanase, who deserve all our applause.
CAR-T therapies are considered the most sophisticated therapies, being at the same time cellular therapies (using cells of the immune system), gene therapies (involving genetic modification) and immunotherapies (activating the immune system, which resumes to fight cancer effectively).
It is a proof that the East-West divide in Europe can be narrowed by using innovations. Romania is currently going through a very interesting period in terms of the national cancer agenda: on 31th of May, the Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca said that “the implementation of the National Beating Cancer Plan will make us move to personalized medicine”, after in January, the President of Romania, Klaus Werner Iohannis, launched the Romania’s Beating Cancer Plan (perfectly aligned with the European vision and initiatives). Last but not least, there is a strong political consensus in the Romanian Parliament to approve the Cancer Law (which on 1st of June entered the line of submission for debate).