There’s good news as an experimental cancer T-cell therapy looks promising and it has propelled the medical community into an exciting direction. There is more hope for those with cancer to get a better chance at a longer life.
- The study was conducted on 35 patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL)
- Among them, 94% declared that they were symptom free after the T-cell therapy
- For patients with other types of blood cancer, the rate of success was of 80%, with half of them going into remission
- The treatment, however, had dangerous side-effects, and was used as a last resort
Researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center have shown that there is a way to use modified white blood cells (WBCs), also known as T-cells, to help the body fight cancer. The challenging part of cancer cells is their ability to hide away from the immune system. The hazardous cells are either ignored by the body’s defenses or have clever ways of masking themselves. It’s the basic of what makes cancer such a tragic and devastating disease which kills millions of people each year worldwide.
However, researchers might’ve found a way to fight acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) through an experimental T-cell therapy. The study was conducted on 35 patients with ALL, who had barely two to five months left to live. According to lead author of the study, professor Stanley Riddell, this was done on patients who failed to respond to other forms of treatment. There was no hope for improvement.
Enter the experimental therapy.
For the treatment, the scientists removed T-cells from the cancer patients and tagged them with specific molecules called chimeric antigen receptors (CARs). These molecules are said to target cancer. Once the T-cells were tagged, they were introduced back into the patient’s body. The attached molecules were successful at diminishing the cancer’s ability to protect itself from the human immune system. In essence, the cancer cells could no longer stave off the body’s response to them.
The technique proved to be incredibly effective. Among the patients with ALL, an astounding 94% of them stated that they were clear of cancer symptoms. Furthermore, the same method was used on other types of blood cancer, where 80% of patients saw positive responses, while around half of them went in complete remission. According to Riddell, it’s unprecedented in medicine to see such fast and positive responses for patients in dire situations.
However, the professor acknowledges that there’s much more work to be done. The treatment is not without side-effects, which was why it was used as a last resort. Among the patients with ALL, seven of them suffered an immune reaction that had them sent to intensive therapy. And, two of them unfortunately perished.
Furthermore, it has not yet been clearly determined how long the patients will remain symptom free. The experimental treatment will not be the magical cure for everyone. Just like any other form of cancer treatment, from chemotherapy to radiotherapy, T-cell therapy could become one of the many other solutions. Hopefully, more research will improve chances of survival.
Image source: sciencenews.org