Posted on Jun 21, 2019, 2 p.m.
Immune systems are being leveraged in a groundbreaking cancer treatment wherein parts of patient immune systems are being genetically reprogrammed to fight their terminal cancer, which is having very promising results.
A number of patients in the UK at King’s College Hospital involved in the National Health Service have been given a living CAR-T drug that is unique to each patient which contains some of the patient’s own cells.
“It is a very exciting new development and it gives new hope to a lot of our patients. It’s amazing to be able to see these people, who you may have not been able to give any hope to, actually achieving remission.” says Victoria Potter of King’s College Hospital.
This treatment involves taking white blood cells from the patient’s immune system which are frozen in nitrogen before being sent to laboratories in the United States to be genetically reprogrammed to seek out and destroy cancer rather than killing off viruses and bacteria as they would normally do. These genetically reprogrammed cells then become chimeric antigen receptor T-cells/CAR-T and are put back into the patient’s bloodstream where they continue to grow and actively work at battling cancer.
Long term statistics on this treatment are not yet available, however in the clinical trials 40% of patients with terminal lymphoma displayed all of the signs of the disease being eliminated from their body within 15 months.
Downside is that the new treatment is still expensive, and it has some potential side effects as Dr. Reuben Benjamin, Consultant Haematologist at King’s College Hospital explains, “Patients who receive the treatment can experience a range of unpleasant side effects from high fever; vomiting; and diarrhoea to confusion; aphasia (difficulty understanding or speaking); and loss of consciousness.”
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