An experimental therapy has brought prolonged remissions to a high proportion of patients who were facing death from advanced leukemia after standard treatments had failed, researchers are reporting.
The experimental treatment uses patients’ own T-cells, a type of immune cell. Researchers extract the T-cells and then genetically engineer them, using a disabled virus to slip new genetic material into the cells. The new genetic material reprograms the T-cells to recognize and kill any cell that carries a particular protein on its surface. Then the cells are dripped back into the patient, like a transfusion.
The cells are also programmed to multiply, so that each one can yield as many as 10,000 more cancer-killing cells.