Greek researcher wants to make breakthrough cancer treatment accessible to all

first_imgDr Maria Themeli, the assistant professor of medicine at the VUmc Cancer Centre in Amsterdam, is determined to make her patent for the treatment of blood cancer with the production of CAR-T cells freely accessible to everyone. After pharmaceutical companies quoted high production costs for the CAR-T cells, Dr Themeli and a team of researchers managed to produce these at a smaller scale than would be necessary for full-scale commercial production.She believes that commercial-level production of CAR-T cells can be achieved at lower costs than those claimed by pharmaceutical companies. “There are difficulties, because the pharmaceutical companies interested in the production of CAR-T cells (Novartis and Kite Pharma) have given very high production cost, approximately €350,000, when the production at academic level does not exceed 50,000 euros,” she told the Athens News Agency, adding that cancer therapy should not be the privilege of the few. The costs quoted by pharmaceutical companies make treatment outside the clinical study very difficult as insurance funds are not willing to cover the treatment costs.Dr Themeli believes that immunotherapy by itself, or in combination with other treatments, can substantially improve the survival rates of those suffering from specific kinds of cancer.Studies are currently being held on the use of CAR-T, however the results are not so spectacular for cases of solid cancer.  “Our group, along with scientists from all over the world, are trying to find solutions to these problems, and I believe that very soon we will have improved results for the treatment with CAR-T and on other types of cancer,” Dr Themeli said.READ MORE: Dr Vasso Apostolopoulos believes that there are cures for all diseases sitting in fridges“Unfortunately, when we believed we had finished with this puzzle, suddenly new parts appear, and this happens because cancer is an extremely variable disease.“In the laboratory, I set small and big, short term and long term targets and I celebrate them all.“It is important to celebrate them, because in research there is 90 per cent failure and disappointment, and only 10 per cent moments of happiness. The answer to a question is the driving force.”Patras-born Dr Themeli earned her PhD at the University of Patras before continuing her post-doctoral research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York in 2010, where she received training in the design, development, manufacture and clinical applications of immunotherapy with CAR-T cells. Her team’s work led to high-impact discoveries in the field of immunotherapy with CAR-T cells.Dr Themeli has received several distinguished awards, such as the Druckenmiller Scholarship from the New York Stem Cell Foundation and the TRT (Translational Research in Hematology) from the American and European Hematology Association. In 2015, she received the Marie Curie Scholarship from the European Union and returned to Europe to perform research in the department of hematology at the VUmc Cancer Center in Amsterdam. Themeli received the distinction of being named the “Woman of the Year 2017” in the Netherlands, despite only living and working there for two and a half years.READ MORE: Greek man diagnosed with prostate cancer takes part in clinical trials This year, Dr Themeli received the Argo Innovation Prize award for the production of CAR-T cells which fight cancer. The Argo Award is given to Greeks who live and excel in their fields of expertise abroad. Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagramlast_img read more