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In a potential breakthrough in cancer research, scientists at the University of Pennsylvania have genetically engineered patients' T cells — a type of white blood cell — to attack cancer cells in advanced cases of a common type of leukemia.
Two of the three patients who received doses of the designer T cells in a clinical trial have remained cancer-free for more than a year, the researchers said.
Experts not connected with the trial said the feat was important because it suggested that T cells could be tweaked to kill a range of cancers, including ones of the blood, breast and colon.
"This is a huge accomplishment — huge," said Dr. Lee M. Nadler, dean for clinical and translational research at Harvard Medical School, who discovered the molecule on cancer cells that the Pennsylvania team's engineered T cells target.
Findings of the trial were reported Wednesday in two journals.
To build the cancer-attacking cells, the researchers modified a virus to carry instructions for making a molecule that binds with leukemia cells and directs T cells to kill them. Then they drew blood from three patients who suffered from chronic lymphocytic leukemia and infected their T cells with the virus.
When they infused the blood back into the patients, the engineered T cells successfully eradicated cancer cells, multiplied to more than 1,000 times in number and survived for months. They even produced dormant "memory" T cells that might spring back to life if the cancer was to return.
On average, the team calculated, each engineered T cell eradicated at least 1,000 cancer cells.
Originally posted by JiggyPotamus
I think I read a thread on this yesterday, or the day before. It was my understanding that a cure such as this would be extremely expensive to market, as well as extremely expensive to receive, since a patient's cells must be extracted, doctored, and then re-infused, unlike a drug that can be mass-produced and given to a variety of patients.
With a medical industry that puts money before people, I do not see this being available anywhere in the near future, even if the researchers can show that their process is sound. It is one thing to have breakthroughs while researching, but a completely different thing to make those discoveries into something that will benefit mankind.