Leukemia Treatment Exceeds Expectations

This is wonderful news, though it may be a bit premature to celebrate.

Research published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine shows amazing results from a single shot to treat leukemia. It may be one of the most significant advances in cancer research in decades.


While doctors at the University of Pennsylvania have only treated three leukemia patients, they report the treatment made the most common type of leukemia disappear in two of the patients, and reduced it by 70 percent in the third.

In each patient, as much as five pounds of cancerous tissue compelety melted away in a few weeks, and a year later remained gone.

The research almost did not happen. The National Cancer Institute and several pharmaceutical companies declined to fund the research. But, the researchers did receive a grant from the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy, a charity founded by Barbara and Edward Netter after the daughter-in-law died of cancer. The funds were enough to cover just the three patients treated in the study.

While the research is new and involved only three, the results surpassed expectations and many are optimistic and hopeful about further findings.

There is more information here.

Scientists are reporting the first clear success with a new approach for treating leukemia — turning the patients’ own blood cells into assassins that hunt and destroy their cancer cells.
They’ve only done it in three patients so far, but the results were striking: Two appear cancer-free up to a year after treatment, and the third patient is improved but still has some cancer. Scientists are already preparing to try the same gene therapy technique for other kinds of cancer.
“It worked great. We were surprised it worked as well as it did,” said Dr. Carl June, a gene therapy expert at the University of Pennsylvania. “We’re just a year out now. We need to find out how long these remissions last.”
He led the study, published Wednesday by two journals, New England Journal of Medicine and Science Translational Medicine.
It involved three men with very advanced cases of chronic lymphocytic leukemia, or CLL. The only hope for a cure now is bone marrow or stem cell transplants, which don’t always work and carry a high risk of death.
Scientists have been working for years to find ways to boost the immune system’s ability to fight cancer. Earlier attempts at genetically modifying bloodstream soldiers called T-cells have had limited success; the modified cells didn’t reproduce well and quickly disappeared.
June and his colleagues made changes to the technique, using a novel carrier to deliver the new genes into the T-cells and a signaling mechanism telling the cells to kill and multiply.
That resulted in armies of “serial killer” cells that targeted cancer cells, destroyed them, and went on to kill new cancer as it emerged. It was known that T-cells attack viruses that way, but this is the first time it’s been done against cancer, June said.
For the experiment, blood was taken from each patient and T-cells removed. After they were altered in a lab, millions of the cells were returned to the patient in three infusions.
The researchers described the experience of one 64-year-old patient in detail. There was no change for two weeks, but then he became ill with chills, nausea and fever. He and the other two patients were hit with a condition that occurs when a large number of cancer cells die at the same time — a sign that the gene therapy is working.
“It was like the worse flu of their life,” June said. “But after that, it’s over. They’re well.”


As Glenn Reynolds would say, faster please!

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One Response to “Leukemia Treatment Exceeds Expectations”

  1. Hope for Leukemia Patients | msmamasramblings Says:

    […] Leukemia Treatment Exceeds Expectations (davidscommonplacebook.wordpress.com) […]


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