Trials of a potentially ground-breaking cancer therapy have had ”extraordinary” results on terminally ill patients, say scientists.
Balancing different types of immune cells and equipping them with cancer-sensing molecules had saved the lives of leukaemia patients for whom all other treatments had failed, said Stanley Riddell of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle in the US.
Tests of the treatment, known as T-cell immunotherapy, had an “unprecedented” success rate of 94% in patients given months to live, he said.
Sky News said four out of five patients with other blood cancers responded positively to the treatment and more than half ended up symptom free.
Riddell’s team treated 26 patients whose acute lymphoblastic leukaemia was so advanced they had only two to five months to live. After 18 months, 24 of the patients were in complete remission.
“This is extraordinary. This is unprecedented in medicine to get response rates in this range from very advanced patients,” Riddell said.
The Sky News report said immune cells, or T-cells, are removed from patients and tagged with ”receptor” molecules – from specially bred genetically engineered mice – that target cancer.
Once the cells, put back into the body, are attached to the T-cells, they reduce the ability of the cancer to shield itself from the body’s immune system.
Riddell told a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington DC that the results were a ”potential paradigm shift” in cancer treatment. But more work needed to be done and he said it was still uncertain how long patients would remain in remission.