Japan's health ministry has approved a cutting-edge treatment for blood cancer that uses a patient's own immune cells.
The domestic arm of Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis submitted the application for Kymriah.
This is the first cancer treatment involving CAR-T cell therapy to be approved in Japan.
The one-time treatment starts with extracting a patient's own immune system cells. These T cells are genetically reprogrammed to boost their power to fight cancer and infused into the patient's body.
Kymriah is applicable to leukemia and some other types of blood cancer for which standard treatments no longer work.
The pharmaceutical company estimates that up to 250 patients in Japan will receive the treatment every year.
The ministry gave the approval on condition that the therapy will be provided at medical institutions that can treat possible side effects.
Kymriah has already been approved in the United States and Europe. It is said to be highly effective in clinical trials, but costs more than 450,000 dollars per patient in the US.
Japan's health ministry plans to set the price for Kymriah in May at the earliest, so that the treatment can be covered by public medical insurance. But the high cost of the therapy could put a strain on the Japanese health insurance system if it is eventually used to treat other types of cancer.