T-cell therapy halts cancer in 94% of terminal patients in clinical trials

• A new therapy to fight cancer using the immune cells brings extraordinary results
• More than 90 percent of participants in the clinical trials who have had only months to live have shown complete remission
• The result of the clinical trials was described as a “potential paradigm shift” for cancer treatment

Scientists claimed extraordinary success with a revolutionary therapy that uses the body’s own immune cells to kill cancer cells. The therapy was used in terminally ill patients who were not expected to live beyond five months.

In one of their first clinical trials, scientists led by Professor Stanley Riddell, from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle in the United States, said 94 percent of the 35 participants with acute lymphoblastic leukemia saw their symptoms completely vanished.

In two other trials, 80 percent of the 40 patients with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma or chronic lymphocyte leukemia responded well to the treatment. Half of the participants have been in complete remission for 18 months.

“These are in patients that have failed everything. Most of the patients in our trial would be projected to have two to five months to live. This is extraordinary. This is unprecedented in medicine to be honest, to get response rates in this range in these very advanced patients,” Professor Riddell said.

The new therapy involves removing white blood cells, known as T-cells, and then genetically modifying them by tagging them with receptor molecules that target cancer cells before infusing them back in the body.

Riddell, speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual conference, described the result of their clinical trial as a “potential paradigm shift” in cancer treatment.

However, he acknowledged that more work had to be done. He said it is not known how long the symptom-free patients would remain in remission.

“We have a long way to go. The response is not always durable. Some of these patients do relapse, we are cognizant of that. But the early data is unprecedented. This is potentially paradigm-shifting in terms of how we treat them. I think this is a significant breakthrough, but we have a way to go. We have to understand how we bring it forward earlier into the treatment course of these diseases. We don’t want to wait until patients have failed everything else,” he said.

Professor Riddell’s has only used the new therapy to “liquid” blood cancers. His team is believed to be working on trying the T-cell technology on solid tumors.

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