CAR-T vs. Gene Therapy: Battle of the Buzz
In mid-July, news broke about an FDA panel unanimously recommending the approval of Novartis’ CAR-T cell therapy treatment for relapsed B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), the most common form of childhood cancer in the U.S. While many biotech and healthcare reporters covered this news correctly (and noted CAR-T as cell therapy), many more mainstream media – including Reuters, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Business Insider, and ABC News – reported it as gene therapy news.
To anyone outside of the gene therapy bubble, this went unnoticed. The differences between gene and cell therapy are more often misunderstood than they are understood. But a group of reporters got the story right:
I was struck by two things. First, it was revealing to see this dialogue play out among influential reporters in this space. To this highly informed group, the distinction between cell therapy and gene therapy is clearly very important. Secondly, however, if the distinction is so critical, why would other mainstream media – many of them also well informed – disregard it?
There’s no obvious answer here. Perhaps “gene therapy” is buzzier and therefore more clickable. Maybe mainstream reporters felt “cell therapy” didn’t go far enough to convey the revolutionary nature of the treatment. Or maybe they just didn’t understand the details. It’s impossible to say.
Regardless, it underscores the need to be clear, even when faced with the most complex science – because these details do matter to somebody.
Megan Mileusnic is an Account Coordinator at JPA Health.