Saturday, February 25, 2017

A new cure for cancer?

A cancer treatment that uses genetically
modified white blood cells to boost
patients’ immune systems has achieved
“unprecedented” results in its first clinical
trials. Unlike chemotherapies, which attack
cancer cells directly, the new method
works by taking white blood cells called
T-cells from patients, and genetically
engineering them so that they target
specific cancer cells. After multiplying
in a laboratory, the T-cells are then
reintroduced into the patient. When the
therapy was tested on patients in the US
with various forms of late-stage blood
cancer, the results were remarkable: 94%
of patients with acute lymphoblastic
leukaemia went into full remission; half
of patients with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
achieved similar results. Experts, however,
are urging caution: the research is still to
be peer-reviewed; it’s unclear whether it
could be used to treat non-blood cancers;
and, as has long been the case with
immunotherapy (as this form of cancer
treatment is known), there are severe
side-effects. Two patients in the trials had
such severe responses that they died.
Though not a “save-all”, the treatment
would make immunotherapy “a pillar of
cancer therapy”, predicted Stanley Riddell,
a researcher on the trials.

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