Gene-based immunotherapy for CLL tried in three patients.

ABC World News (8/10, story 6, 2:10, Sawyer) reported what is "being called the most significant advance in cancer research in decades." Three patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) were tested. In the experiment, researchers collected blood from each patient, isolated T-cells, then "inserted a modified, harmless version of HIV into those cells" which engineered the T-cells to successfully target cancer cells, and the cells were also able to destroy newly emerged cancer cells. Thus far, a year after treatment, two patients are free of cancer, and one is improving. Dr. Len Lichtenfeld of the American Cancer Society cautioned, "The goal now is to find out how long these remissions last."
The CBS Evening News (8/10, story 7, 2:00, Pelley) reported that the three patients all had a cancer for which the "only known cure is a bone marrow transplant which is risky and only effective in about half of patients."
NBC Nightly News (8/10, story 6, 2:20, Williams) reported that researchers said, "The research concept was so new that neither the National Cancer Institute nor pharmaceutical companies would fund it," which is why only three patients could be studied. The funding was provided by the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy.
The AP (8/11, Nano) reports that the study, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine and Science Translational Medicine, employs a new technique "using a novel carrier to deliver the new genes into the T-cells and a signaling mechanism telling the cells to" divide and to kill cancer cells. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and other institutions now want to target leukemia, pancreatic, ovarian, prostate, and brain cancer.
The Wall Street Journal (8/11, Winslow, Subscription Publication) reports that the gene therapy involved virally reprogramming a patient's T-cells into a hybrid containing B-cell features, and sets the T-cells to target CD19, which marks CLL cells. The Journal also notes that a side effect of the treatment is B-cell death, which can be treated. However, lead researcher Dr. Carl June of the University of Pennsylvania's Abramson Cancer Center warned that studies need to be done on more than the three initial patients. The National Institutes of Health funded the project.
Bloomberg News (8/11, Lopatto) reports the studies showed that "the method also stimulates so-called memory T-cells, which may help protect patients against the cancer's return." According to the National Cancer Institute, "about 14,990 new cases of chronic lymphocytic leukemia were diagnosed in 2010, and about 4,390 people died from the blood cancer."
According to the Los Angeles Times (8/11, Brown), researchers noted that "earlier efforts to replace risky bone marrow transplants with such engineered T cells proved disappointing because the cells were unable to multiply or survive in patients." In this experiment, however, "the T cells were more robust because the team added extra instructions to their virus to help the T cells multiply, survive and attack more aggressively."
Also covering the story are HealthDay (8/11, Gardner), MedPage Today (8/11, Bankhead), MSNBC (8/11, Bazell), and WebMD (8/11, DeNoon).
1 Comment
  1. ladydye 10 years ago

    There is Harmless HIV? for real?

    0 kudos

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