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Cell Therapy Eradicates Cancer in Clinical Study

Leukemia patients respond to genetically modified immune cells (February 19)

In a new clinical trial, investigators at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center have found that 88% of leukemia patients achieved complete remissions after being treated with genetically modified versions of their own immune cells. The results were published in Science Translational Medicine.

Adult B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL), a type of blood cancer that develops in B cells, is difficult to treat because most patients relapse. Patients with relapsed B-ALL have few treatment options; only 30% respond to salvage chemotherapy. Without a successful bone-marrow transplant, few of these patients have any hope of long-term survival.

In the new study, 16 patients with relapsed B-ALL were given an infusion of their own genetically modified T cells. The cells were “re-educated” to recognize and destroy cancer cells that contain the protein CD19.

While the overall complete response rate for all patients was 88%, even those with detectable disease prior to treatment had a complete response rate of 78%, far exceeding the complete response rate of salvage chemotherapy alone, the researchers said.

Additional studies to determine whether cell therapy can be applied to other types of cancer are under way, and studies to test whether B-ALL patients would benefit from receiving targeted immunotherapy as frontline treatment are being planned.

Source: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; February 19, 2014.

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