A new ‘living drug’ that could represent a huge step forward in the fight against cancer is close to becoming widely available.
Scientists have revealed that the drug could stop cancer from ever returning to the body once a patient has been treated.
According to the Daily Mail T-cell immunotherapy involves the removal of white blood cells – the cells of the immune system – from the patient.
They are then manipulated and modified to allow them to recognise and attack cancer cells. The cells are then grown to high numbers in a lab before being put back into the patient.
Two landmark studies have now revealed the therapy’s stunning potential. One suggests it will last for at least 14 years in the body, raising the prospect of a permanent cure for cancer while the other saw 94 per cent of terminally ill patients completely free from cancer cells.
These results have been labelled as ‘extraordinary’ and ‘unprecedented in medicine’.
Researcher Dr Stanley Riddell said:
These are patients that have failed [every other treatment]. Most patients in our trial would be projected to have two to five months to live.
This is extraordinary… unprecedented in medicine to get response rates in this range in these very advanced patients.
We have a long way to go. The response is not always durable, some of these patients do relapse … but the early data is unprecedented.
Professor Dirk Busch, a T-cell researcher at the Technical University of Munich, said:
We have now for the first time genetically engineered T-cells in patients. A couple of years ago, nobody would have expected that they would work so nicely, that they would survive.
However, the treatment is not without its challenges, including side-effects that can be severe and even fatal.
Success so far has been in leukaemia and other ‘liquid’ cancers, rather than prostate, breast and other tumours that form lumps, as getting the T-cells deep inside solid tumours will be difficult.
However, researcher Dr Chiara Bonini said patients were ‘very close’ to the first treatments becoming widely available:
It doesn’t yet work for all patients, we still need more results from more trials but there’s a lot of hope this type of therapy could save lives.
It’s like a vaccine that protects for life.
Let’s hope it’s widely available soon.