The idea behind immunotherapy is simple. Your body has an immune response to deal with disease, so it just needs to be triggered and it, in theory, will deal with everything from the common cold to cancer. Cancer, in particular, has been a focus of immunotherapy research, and the field might have just seen a major breakthrough.
This specific therapy works by giving the immune system a little help. First, the researchers took “memory” T-cells out of the patients in the study. Memory cells are T-cells that carry a specific antigen for dealing with disease. If the body sees that disease again, the memory T-cells call in the troops and kill it.
The cells are then modified with molecules that target a specific cancer, blood cancers in this case, and reinfused back into the body. The results being claimed are so dramatic, the medical community didn’t quite believe it at first: 94 percent of patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a blood cancer most common in children, saw their symptoms vanish. Patients with other blood cancers saw a response rate to the treatment of 80 percent, and more than half went into remission. Adding to the surprise, these were terminal patients; many of them only expected to live a few months.
That said, nobody, not even the research team, is arguing this is a silver bullet for all cancers. First of all, there were side effects, which killed two of the patients in the study. They have no idea how it will react to tumors as opposed to cancer cells floating in blood. That said, the results are almost shocking in their efficacy, and considering who these cancers most affect, expect more research quickly.
(Via The Guardian)