Thursday, August 11, 2011

G.I. Gene

An army genetically bred and trained to kill tumors.

Sounds like science fiction.

It's not, and with the breakthrough this week, it could become a common cancer-fighting technique in the not-so-distant future.

Doctors at the University of Pennsylvania have released a research study that may prove to be the biggest advancement in the fight against cancer in decades. They treated three patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) with their own blood. CLL is the most common type of leukemia, and historically has not been beatable without a bone marrow transplant. Even after a bone marrow transplant, many patients relapse.

Of the three patients treated with the UPenn doctors' bold strategy, two have been in remission for a year, and the third has seen a 70% reduction in tumor cells.

Three success stories doesn't guarantee the technique will have as high a success rate in a larger clinical trial, and it's too early to know if the two cured will stay in remission. The results, however, are good enough to attract research grants and the drug companies. The breakthrough could lead to cures for the blood cancers, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer, brain cancer, melanoma, and potentially others diseases. Instead of two and a half years of drug therapies, someone diagnosed with APL ten years from now might be cured with a single injection. Amazing.

For each patient, the doctors drew blood and collected the T-cells, which are a form of white blood cell. The doctors genetically reengineered those cells to target and destroy tumor blood cells. They injected the the white blood cells with "G.I. Genes" back into the patient. One to two weeks later, the patient experienced severe flu-like symptoms, which were the result of the altered white blood cell army killing the tumor cells.

The below link provides more details on the study:

New leukemia treatment exceeds 'wildest expectations'

One to three injections to cure leukemia or another cancer instead of the regimen those of us in the Cancer Club must endure sounds too good to be true. Cross your fingers and pray that a decade from now, legions of miniscule soldiers fighting our cancer battles for us will no longer sound like science fiction.