December 9, 2012

Amazing Cure for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

An amazing cure for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.

source: NYTimes

Emma Whitehead (photo above) went through an experimental treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia and she is healthy now; her cancer is in complete remission.

Per NYTimes 
The experiment, in April, used a disabled form of the virus that causes AIDS to reprogram Emma’s immune system genetically to kill cancer cells.
The treatment may replace bone-marrow transplant, an expensive and difficult treatment for this leukemia.

HervĂ© Hoppenot, the president of Novartis Oncology, called the research “fantastic” and said it had the potential — if the early results held up — to revolutionize the treatment of leukemia and related blood cancers. Researchers say the same approach, reprogramming the patient’s immune system, may also eventually be used against tumors like breast and prostate cancer.

To perform the treatment, doctors remove millions of the patient’s T-cells — a type of white blood cell — and insert new genes that enable the T-cells to kill cancer cells. The technique employs a disabled form of H.I.V. because it is very good at carrying genetic material into T-cells. The new genes program the T-cells to attack B-cells, a normal part of the immune system that turn malignant in leukemia.

The altered T-cells — called chimeric antigen receptor cells — are then dripped back into the patient’s veins, and if all goes well they multiply and start destroying the cancer.

The T-cells home in on a protein called CD-19 that is found on the surface of most B-cells, whether they are healthy or malignant.

The modified T-cells are like active drugs that continue to protect the body for a long time.

The raw cost of producing modified T-cells - $20,000 – an order of magnitude less than bone marrow transplant treatment.

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