As we’ve posted before, researchers are saying that we need to think differently about cancer in our search for a cure. In that vein, promising research at the University of Pennsylvania indicates that the body’s own immune cells can be re-trained to fight blood cancers, and perhaps one day, solid tumors:
“This is absolutely one of the more exciting advances I’ve seen in cancer therapy in the last 20 years,” said Dr. David Porter, a hematologist and oncologist at Penn. “We’ve entered into a whole new realm of medicine.”
In the therapy, doctors first remove the patient’s T-cells, which play a crucial role in the immune system. They then reprogram the cells by transferring in new genes. Once infused back into the body, each modified cell multiplies to 10,000 cells. These “hunter” cells then track down and kill the cancer in a patient’s body.
More promising still, this kind of research is easily replicable; which means that researchers at other institutions can quickly expand on this work:
One of the best aspects of this new treatment is that it won’t be terribly difficult to reproduce at other medical centers, Porter said, and one day, instead of being used only experimentally, it could be available to anyone who needed it.
“Our hope is that this can progress really quite quickly,” he said. “It won’t be available to everyone next year, but I don’t think it would take a decade, either.”
A potential cure for at least some types of cancer within a decade? That sounds like a pretty great next ten years to me.