Scientists are claiming "extraordinary" success following the early trials for a potential cancer treatment in which modified white blood cells target certain types of cancer, according to an announcement Monday.
During two separate studies, patients were treated with the modified white blood cells — known as T-cells — which were removed from their bodies, tagged with "receptor" molecules that target cancer, and placed back into their bodies through infusion, according to Fox News. In the study conducted with patients who suffered from acute lymphoblastic leukemia, 94 percent of the participants' symptoms vanished entirely. In the second study conducted with patients who suffered from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, 80 percent of the patients responded positively to the treatments whereas over half of them became symptom-free.
"This is extraordinary," lead researcher professor Stanley Riddell from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle told Fox News. "This is unprecedented in medicine to be honest, to get response rates in this range in these very advanced patients."
The modified T-cells, which had been engineered with new targeting mechanisms known as chimeric antigen receptors, were essentially programmed to specifically seek out and destroy patients' tumor cells, the BBC noted. Although this treatment did receive notable success with most participants, seven of the patients developed cytokine release syndrome and two of them died.
Riddell noted that this innovative treatment currently is meant to be used as a last-ditch treatment for those suffering from certain types of terminal cancers when other treatment methods had failed, adding that the scientists are continuing their research into the treatment and seeking to expand its usage for treatment in other types of cancer.
"[The patients] were really at the end of the line in terms of treatment options and yet a single dose of this therapy put more than 90 percent of these patients in complete remission where we can't detect any of these leukemia cells," Riddell told the BBC.
Dr. Alan Worsley from Cancer Research UK also told the BBC that this new treatment development, which is very exciting, is still "a baby step."
"We've been working for a while using this type of technology, genetically engineering cells. So far it's really shown some promise in this type of blood cancer," Worsley said. "We should say that in most cases standard treatment for blood cancer is quite effective, so this is for those rare patients where that hasn't worked. The real challenge now is how do we get this to work for other cancers, how do we get it to work for what's known as solid cancers, cancers in the tissue?"
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