A new breakthrough in cancer treatment is being hailed as “revolutionary” by scientists after reports of “unprecedented success” from an immunotherapy treatment that triggered a staggering 94 percent remission rate during one trial.
The procedure, which turns a patient’s own cells into tumor-killing agents, was first announced at the 2016 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington DC earlier in the week.
The most impressive results came from a group of 35 patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia who saw the 94 percent remission rate result.
From The Guardian:
More than 40 patients with lymphoma have also been treated, with remission rates of more than 50%. In a group with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, there was evidence of diminished cancer symptoms in more than 80% of cases.
“This is unprecedented in medicine, to be honest, to get response rates in this range in these very advanced patients,” project’s researcher Stanley Riddell said.
Recent advances in genetic engineering has allowed scientists to realize new ways of exploiting T cells in the human body, while boosting their innate abilities to specifically target cancerous tumors.
According to IFLS, researchers have engineered T cells to make receptors that recognize a molecule called CD19, which is almost exclusively found on another type of white blood cell called the B cell, destroying tumors originating from these cells such as certain lymphomas and leukemias.
Doctors then remove immune cells from a cancer patient, then “tag” the cell with a “receptor” molecule that targets a specific cancer, similar to how T-cells target the flu or infections. They then infuse the cells back into the patient.
“These are in patients that have failed everything. Most of the patients in our trial would be projected to have two to five months to live,” said project researcher Chiara Bonini. “T-cells are a living drug, and in particular they have the potential to persist in our body for our whole lives.”
“Much like chemotherapy and radiotherapy, it’s not going to be a save-all,” Riddell said. “I think immunotherapy has finally made it to a pillar of cancer therapy.”