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Opening a new era in cancer care, U.S. health officials have approved a breakthrough treatment that genetically engineers patients' own blood cells into an army of assassins to seek and destroy childhood leukemia.Returned to the patient, the revved-up cells can continue multiplying to fight disease for months or years.CAR-T cell therapy gives patients stronger T-cells to do that job.It strikes more than 3,000 children and young adults in the U.S. each year and while most survive, about 15 percent relapse despite today's best treatments.He cautioned that CAR-T "isn't a panacea".Among concerns, sometimes leukemia can develop resistance, and sometimes patients worsen while waiting for their new cells, said Sekeres, who directs the Cleveland Clinic's leukemia program and wasn't involved with CAR-T testing. On a conference call Wednesday, Novartis executives said the company is working with the Medicaid program and private insurers and expects broad coverage, and will offer some financial assistance with such things as copay and travel costs. But they didn't promise all patients would be able to get the therapy.For some patients, the new CAR-T therapy might replace bone marrow transplants that cost more than $500,000, noted Grupp, who led the Novartis study.
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