It appears that immunotherapy research is finally going to pay dividends when it comes to leukemia.
"A treatment that genetically alters a patient’s own immune cells to fight cancer has, for the first time, produced remissions in adults with an acute leukemia that is usually lethal, researchers are reporting. In one patient who was severely ill, all traces of leukemia vanished in eight days.
“We had hoped, but couldn’t have predicted that the response would be so profound and rapid,” said Dr. Renier J. Brentjens, the first author of a new study of the therapy and a specialist in leukemia at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
The treatment is experimental, has been used in only a small number of patients and did not work in all of them. But experts consider it a highly promising approach for a variety of malignancies, including other blood cancers and tumors in organs like the prostate gland...
The treatment uses patients’ own T-cells, a type of white blood cell that normally fights viruses and cancer. The patient’s blood is run through a machine that extracts T-cells and returns the rest of the blood to the body.
Researchers then do some genetic engineering: they use a disabled virus as a “vector” to carry new genetic material into the T cells, which reprograms them to recognize and kill any cell that carries a particular protein on its surface." Source: Denise Grady, Cell Therapy Shows Promise for Acute Type of Leukemia, The New York Times, March 20, 2013.
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