Last June the Ministry of Health incorporated this hospital, along with 13 other hospitals in Spain, into the network of centres accredited to offer CAR-T advanced therapies.
The authorisation was made possible thanks to the Hospital’s long experience in allogeneic transplantation and in obtaining JAICE accreditation in haematopoietic progenitor transplantation. The use of these therapies makes Son Espases one of Spain’s leading hospitals in cutting-edge medicine.
The Councillor for Health and Consumer Affairs, Patricia Gómez, accompanied by the head of the Haematology Service at Son Espases, Antònia Sampol, visited this morning the cabinet where the procedure is carried out, together with the Service’s laboratories and the hospitalisation unit. She was accompanied by the general director of Services and Pharmacy, Nacho García; the deputy director of Hospitals and Mental Health of the Health Service, Francesc Albertí, and the managing director of Son Espases, Josep Pomar.
CAR-T therapy uses the patient’s immune system and consists of extracting immune cells from the patient, which are genetically modified in the laboratory and then infused to attack the cancer cells.
At the moment, this therapy is indicated for patients with lymphomas and refractory acute lymphoblastic leukaemias where treatments have failed, including transplantation. However, indications for diseases such as mantle lymphoma, follicular lymphoma and multiple myeloma are expected to be expanded in the coming months.
Fewer side effects for the patient
Cellular immunotherapy with CAR-T is an important step forward because it allows the tumour to be treated specifically by targeting the patient’s own immune system to eradicate the tumour, without the side effects of chemotherapy on other organs and tissues, i.e. with fewer side effects for the patient. Moreover, it is a disruptive therapy and offers therapeutic and curative possibilities for pathologies and situations where conventional therapies currently available have failed.
Coordination to ensure access and equity
Since the Plan for the Approach to Advanced Therapies in the National Health System (SNS) was launched in November 2018, the autonomous communities have had to create circuits to be able to refer patients who are candidates for these therapies to the first 10 centres that were authorised in 2019 to be able to apply them, based on the principles of efficiency, safety and equity.
In the Balearic Islands, as in other autonomous communities, the Advanced Therapies Approach Unit was also set up to create the appropriate circuits to guarantee patient access. In this sense, Son Espases was designated the reference hospital for regional coordination and to be able to apply CAR-T therapy.
Since the approval of advanced therapies, 20 patients have already been referred in the Balearic Islands and Son Espases has already followed up all these patients who have been treated on the mainland. In the November 2021 call for applications, the Ministry has designated 14 more hospitals throughout Spain that meet the necessary conditions to be able to carry out these treatments.
One of them is the Hospital Universitario Son Espases, thanks to the efforts made by the staff of the Haematology Service to achieve the accreditations and standards of quality and excellence set by scientific societies at both European and national level, such as the JACIE-CAT accreditation, and also the authorisations of the pharmaceutical industry for the two CAR-T approved so far, Yescarta and Kymriah, along with an investment in technological renovation of almost €160,000.
This means that the Haematology Service of the Hospital Son Espases, with a multidisciplinary team of professionals, both doctors and nurses, from different services of the Hospital (Pharmacy, Intensive Care, Neurology, Immunology, etc.), is in a position to carry out all the treatment and monitoring of patients, thus avoiding the need to travel to the Peninsula and the inconvenience this entails for them and their families.
Since January 2022, the first phase of the procedure has begun, which consists of collecting the cells from the patient (lymphopheresis) from 4 patients in Son Espases, so that they can be genetically modified by the pharmaceutical industry.
The authorisation of the Ministry of Health for the use of advanced therapies means that the Son Espases Haematology Service is recognised as a leading service in Spain. Patients from other autonomous communities may even be referred to Son Espases for treatment. In addition, it will allow participation in research projects in this field together with reference hospitals.
The Haematology Service has created a specific unit made up of a multidisciplinary team of highly qualified professionals to carry out these treatments.
In the not too distant future, solid tumours such as breast cancer or glioblastoma are expected to be treated with these advanced therapies, which will contribute to improving patients’ lives.