A gene therapy study done at the University of Pennsylvania has yielded profoundly significant results for cancer patients. A trial study done on three leukemia patients was able to successfully send two of those patients’ cancer into remission. While the program is still in its trial stages, the gene cancer study could prove to be a major advance in the fight against cancer.
All three of the studies participants had been diagnosed with advanced chronic lymphocytic leukemia and were no longer candidates for chemotherapy or a bone marrow transplant. Therefore, for these patients the experimental study represented their only treatment option. The goal of the University of Pennsylvania study was to try and get the patients’ own immune system to fight the cancer.
To do so, the scientists focused on the patients’ T-cells, which is a white blood cell that works to fight tumors and viruses. The process involved removing millions or billions of the person’s T-cells, splicing them with new genes, and then returning the modified T-cells to the person’s body. What was unique about the University of Pennsylvania study was that it was the first time a modified version of the H.I.V. virus has been used in cancer gene therapy research.
The AIDS virus used in the study was a H.I.V.-1 that had been disabled, or “gutted,” to the point that it was no longer harmful to the body’s immune system. However, what did remain was its ability to invade the body’s T-cells, which made it an ideal virus to help attach the cancer-fighting genes to the modified T-cells. These T-cells were programed to attach the leukemia cancer cells in a patient’s body.
While the scientists were hopeful that these T-cells would begin fighting the participants’ chronic leukemia, they were unprepared for the experiment’s overwhelming success. Again, two of the three patients were successfully sent into full remission, with the third patient undergoing a partial remission. However, for these patients who were left with no other treatment options, these success rates were like a miracle.
While the University of Pennsylvania trial was only Phase 1 of the study process, its results exceeded the scientists’ expectations. This phase was meant to identify whether or not the treatment itself was safe and determine what dosage could be safely administered. Future phases will work towards isolating which part of the study’s strategy made it an effective cancer treatment and using those findings to influence future cancer research.
Denise Grady. An Immune System Trained to Kill Cancer. The New York Times. September 12, 2011.
Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois cancer misdiagnosis lawsuits for individuals and families for more than 35 years in and around Chicago, Cook County, and surrounding areas, including Hoffman Estates, Morton Grove, Alsip, and Oak Forest.
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