‘Living Drug’ 90% Successful in Treating Leukemia

Photo of author

(Newswire.net — February 17, 2016) — New York – A group of scientists from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center published this week, a breakthrough in treating blood cancer, widely known as Leukemia.

The results confirm the success of this new method, which was published in Science Magazine in 2013, in treating leukemia. The trial involved 16 people with adult B acute Lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL). The therapy uses genetic modifications of the patient’s own cells, helping the immune system to fight cancer.

The result showed 14 out of 16 patients went into complete remission that lasted for 2 year now, wrote author of the report, Renier Brentjens, director of cellular therapeutics at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

How does the treatment work?

The main problem with aggressive medication is that they target and destroy healthy cells along with cancer cells. The new process involves removing some of the patient’s T-cells and altering them with a gene to make them recognize a protein on the cancer cells called CD19.

“Basically, what we do is re-educate the T-cell in the laboratory with gene therapy to recognize and now kill tumor cells, it seems to really work in patients with this particular type of cancer,” said Brentjens.

In layman’s terms, the ‘reprogrammed’ immune system can recognize the ‘broken’ cells and ‘order’ them to heal themselves by ‘reminding’ them of their natural state before they mutated into cancer cells. However, if the cell is altered too much, the immune system will ‘order’ it to simply ‘kill’ itself. This process of auto destruction of cells is called the apoptosis.

The idea that boosting the immune system can treat any disease is not a new one. The treatment, known as tumor-targeted chimeric antigen receptor-modified T-cells, has been in development for 15 years. However, this is the first time the results have been clinically confirmed in such a large percentage.

Furthermore, all the patients in the trial, whose average age was 50, were in a progressive state of illness – terminal patients – expected to die very soon. 14 out of 16 of the patients not only lived on, but went into complete remission as of 2013.

“This is a real phenomenon, demonstrating that this isn’t a fluke. This could be a paradigm shift in the way we approach cancer therapy,” said Brentjens.

The therapy in its experimental phase is too expensive, at $100,000 per patient. However, the price would significantly drop when the treatment becomes conventional.

Researchers are still trying to find out why the treatment doesn’t work in all patients, and to identify cancer-specific receptor cells for treatment to fight other cancer diseases and tumors.