An extraordinary breakthrough with regard to cancer research has been announced this week. The new form of treatment has been stated to have had outstanding results as part of ongoing trials in the USA.
A group of 35 people were involved with the programme, which saw a particular form of cancer (acute lymphoblastic leukaemia or ALL) almost completely eradicated. Using a process known as modified T-Cell cancer therapy, the patients all saw unprecedented recovery rates, with several who were suffering from blood cancers experiencing response rates of over 80%. In short, nine out of ten patients saw their condition almost completely disappear.
Professor Stanley Riddell of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Washington state was addressing The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS – an American international non-profit organization with the stated goals of promoting cooperation among scientists and the betterment of all humanity) when the news was made public and he outlined the benefits and developments of the programme.
“This is unprecedented in medicine, to be honest, to get response rates in this range in these very advanced patients.”
In an interview with Sky News, Riddel explained how the technique involved removing immune cells called T-cells from patients, tagging them with “receptor” molecules that target cancer, and putting them back into the body in an infusion. A Guardian infographic (below) details the procedure.
“The revolution here really is demonstrating that we can take T-cells from a patient and essentially reprogramme those cells to recognise cancers. The power of this is that … unlike a chemotherapy drug that sort of just destroys cancer cells that are growing, you actually now put in a living therapy that really can combat the cancer.”
With particular significance to ALL and blood cancer patients, this is one of the most significant advances to be witnessed in years and a step closer to maintaining control over a disease which effects almost all of our lives at some point.