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Elaine Thompson / AP

The FDA has approved the first advanced therapy to attack cancer. The brand-name drug, Kymriah, made by pharmaceutical giant Novartis, can be used for children and young adults who have a certain form of leukemia.

Why it matters: It's a major approval that has the potential to change how cancer is treated, although the eligible patient population appears small for now. "We're entering a new frontier in medical innovation with the ability to reprogram a patient's own cells to attack a deadly cancer," FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement.

What the drug does: It's commonly known as a CAR-T therapy, and it's a hot research area across several drug companies (and is the prize of Gilead's $11.9 billion buyout of Kite Pharma from this week). CAR-T modifies a patient's immune cells, which are then infused back into the patient to kill cancer cells.

The price: $475,000 for a one-time treatment, according to a conference call with Novartis executives. The company also said it will only accept payments if patients respond to the drug within the first month. David Mitchell, president of advocacy group Patients For Affordable Drugs, met with Novartis yesterday to talk about "how to arrive at a fair price for its new CAR-T drug," but said the meeting was "disappointing."

Go deeper

Air quality alerts issued as California fires threaten more sequoias

The Windy Fire blazes through the Long Meadow Grove of giant sequoia trees near the Trail of 100 Giants in Sequoia National Forest, near California Hot Springs, on Tuesday. Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

Two wildfires were threatening California's sequoia trees over overnight, hours after authorities issued fresh evacuation orders and warnings, along with air quality alerts on Wednesday.

The big picture: Officials in the Bay Area and the San Joaquin Valley issued air quality alerts as smoke from the Windy and KNP Complex fires resulted in hazy, "ash-filled" skies from Fresno to Tulare, the Los Angeles Times notes.

Asymptomatic Florida students exposed to COVID no longer have to quarantine

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis during a September news conference in Viera, Fla. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced Wednesday an emergency order allowing parents to decide whether their children should quarantine or stay in school if they're exposed to COVID-19, provided they're asymptomatic.

Why it matters: People infected with COVID-19 can spread the coronavirus starting from two days before they display symptoms, according to the CDC. Quarantine helps prevent the virus' spread.

Federal judge: Florida ban on sanctuary cities racially motivated

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A federal judge on Tuesday struck down parts of a Florida law aimed at banning local governments from establishing sanctuary city policies, arguing in part that the law is racially motivated and that it has the support of hate groups.

Why it matters: In a 110-page ruling issued Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom said the law — signed and championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) — violates the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause because it was adopted with discriminatory motives.

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