New Leukemia Treatment Exceeds 'Wildest Expectations'
MSNBC.COM - Doctors have treated only three leukemia patients, but the sensational results from a single shot could be one of the most significant advances in cancer research in decades. And it almost never happened.
In the research published Wednesday, doctors at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center say the treatment made the most common type of leukemia completely disappear in two of the patients and reduced it by 70 percent in the third. In each of the patients as much as five pounds of cancerous tissue completely melted away in a few weeks, and a year later it is still gone.
The results of the preliminary test "exceeded our wildest expectations," says immunologist Dr. Carl June a member of the Abramson Cancer Center's research team.
Dr. Edgar Engleman, a cancer immunologist at Stanford University School of Medicine who was not involved in the research calls the results "remarkable ... great stuff."
The Penn scientists targeted chroniclymphocytic leukemia (CLL), the most common type of the blood disease. It strikes some 15,000 people in the United States, mostly adults, and kills 4,300 every year. Chemotherapy and radiation can hold this form of leukemia at bay for years, but until now the only cure has been a bone marrow transplant. A bone marrow transplant requires a suitable match, works only about half the time, and often brings on severe, life-threatening side effects such as pain and infection.
In the Penn experiment, the researchers removed certain types of white blood cells that the body uses to fight disease from the patients. Using a modified, harmless version of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, they inserted a series of genes into the white blood cells. These were designed to make to cells target and kill the cancer cells. After growing a large batch of the genetically engineered white blood cells, the doctors injected them back into the patients.
In similar past experimental treatments for several types of cancer the re-injected white cells killed a few cancer cells and then died out. But the Penn researchers inserted a gene that made the white blood cells multiply by a thousand fold inside the body. The result, as researcher June put it, is that the white blood cells became "serial killers" relentlessly tracking down and killing the cancer cells in the blood, bone marrow and lymph tissue. >>>CLICK HERE TO READ MORE
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