Experimental therapy against blood cancer successful


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Researchers from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle claim extraordinary success of experimental therapy using patient's own engineered T-cells against blood cancer. Twenty-seven out of 29 patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) showed no trace of cancer in their bone marrow following the infusion.

Dr. Stanley Riddell shared on Sunday, 14th of February at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington, D.C the results of the clinical trial aimed to test the safety of the adoptive immunotherapy. In adoptive immunotherapy patient's own T-cells are isolated, genetically modified to recognizes cancer cells, and infused back to fight the cancer. The genetic modification consists of introduction of chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) to the T-cells which will make them recognize and attack the cancer cells.

Apart from ALL the clinical trial tested the safety of the treatment also in non-Hodgkin lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Also in those patients the experimental treatment had positive effect.

Adoptive immunotherapy is often thought as a last resort experimental treatment because of the danger of occurrence of serious adverse effects including "cytokine release syndrome". Twenty patients experience symptoms such as fever, hypotension or neurotoxicity, and two patients died. It should be noted that in all of the patents admitted to the trial previous treatments with chemotherapy failed to be successful. During the trial, researchers had modified the protocol and lowered the amount of T cells given to patients with the highest tumor burdens which reduced the incidence of serious adverse effects.

Currently, scientists in Riddell's lab and other groups in Fred Hutch Centre develop modifications of the treatment which should be safer and easier to use.

Adoptive immunotherapy has a prospective use in other types of cancer including breast, ovarian and skin cancer and the search for the specific CARs for those cancers in ongoing.

Source: Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Abstract AAAS: S.Riddell "Engineering T Cells for Safe and Effective Cancer Immunotherapy" AAAS 2016 Annual Meeting
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