Posts Tagged ‘t-cells’
A year ago, when chemotherapy stopped working against his leukemia, William Ludwig signed up to be the first patient treated in a bold experiment at the University of Pennsylvania. Mr. Ludwig, then 65, a retired corrections officer from Bridgeton, N.J., felt his life draining away and thought he had nothing to lose.
Doctors removed a billion of his T-cells — a type of white blood cell that fights viruses and tumors — and gave them new genes that would program the cells to attack his cancer. Then the altered cells were dripped back into Mr. Ludwig’s veins.
At first, nothing happened. But after 10 days, hell broke loose in his hospital room. He began shaking with chills. His temperature shot up. His blood pressure shot down. He became so ill that doctors moved him into intensive care and warned that he might die. His family gathered at the hospital, fearing the worst.
A few weeks later, the fevers were gone. And so was the leukemia.
There was no trace of it anywhere — no leukemic cells in his blood or bone marrow, no more bulging lymph nodes on his CT scan. His doctors calculated that the treatment had killed off two pounds of cancer cells.
A year later, Mr. Ludwig is still in complete remission. Before, there were days when he could barely get out of bed; now, he plays golf and does yard work.
“I have my life back,” he said.
Mr. Ludwig’s doctors have not claimed that he is cured — it is too soon to tell — nor have they declared victory over leukemia on the basis of this experiment, which involved only three patients. The research, they say, has far to go; the treatment is still experimental, not available outside of studies.
But scientists say the treatment that helped Mr. Ludwig…may signify a turning point in the long struggle to develop effective gene therapies against cancer. And not just for leukemia patients: other cancers may also be vulnerable to this novel approach… In essence, the team is using gene therapy to accomplish something that researchers have hoped to do for decades: train a person’s own immune system to kill cancer cells.
RTFA. Hope is a wonderful word. Accompanied with science and innovation, courage and care – so much may yet be achieved.
The concept of pregnancy makes no sense — at least not from an immunological point of view. After all, a fetus, carrying half of its father’s genome, is biologically distinct from its mother. The fetus is thus made of cells and tissues that are very much not “self” — and not-self is precisely what the immune system is meant to search out and destroy.
Women’s bodies manage to ignore this contradiction in the vast majority of cases, making pregnancy possible. Similarly, scientists have generally paid little attention to this phenomenon — called “pregnancy tolerance” — and its biological details.
Now, a pair of scientists from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have shown that females actively produce a particular type of immune cell in response to specific fetal antigens — immune-stimulating proteins — and that this response allows pregnancy to continue without the fetus being rejected by the mother’s body…
Scientists had long been “hinting around at the idea that the mother’s immune system makes tolerance possible…”What they didn’t have were the details of this tolerance — or proof that it was immune-related.
Now they do…
RTFA. Or spend the money and read the original paper at PNAS.
Researchers describe the first successful use of a human patient’s cloned infection-fighting T cells as the sole therapy to put an advanced solid-tumor cancer into long-term remission. A team led by Cassian Yee, M.D., reports these findings in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Yee and colleagues removed CD4+ T cells, a type of white blood cell, from a 52-year-old man whose Stage 4 melanoma had spread to a groin lymph node and to a lung. T cells specific to targeting the melanoma were then expanded vastly in the laboratory using modifications to existing methods. The lab-grown cells were then infused into the patient with no additional pre- or post-conditioning therapies, such as growth-factor or cytokine treatment. Two months later, PET and CT scans revealed no tumors. The patient remained disease free two years later, when he was last checked…
Yee cautioned that these results, presented in the journal’s “Brief Report” section, represent only one patient with a specific type of immune system whose tumor cells expressed a specific antigen. More studies are needed to confirm the effectiveness of the experimental T-cell therapy. If proven successful in more patients, Yee predicted this therapy could be used for the 25 percent of all late-stage melanoma patients who have the same immune-system type and tumor antigen.
Cripes! Even if a very specific set of circumstances are required, this could be the beginning of a dynamic new mode of treatment for cancers.