Memory Cells May Be Key to Fighting Blood Cancers

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Source: Fred Hutch/News Service

Source: Fred Hutch/News Service

Scientists have developed a new therapy treatment for blood cancers like lymphoma, researchers announced on Sunday.

At the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting on February 14, researchers introduced newly designed immune cells called CAR-T. CAR-T cells are genetically engineered versions of immune T cells. T cells are able to identify foreign cells that harm the body.

This new immune cell may now be more effective than any other subset of immune memory T cells. Previously in testing with memory T cells, it was found that a very low number of injected cells could be enough to save cancer patients. Dr. Crystal Mackall of the National Cancer Institute stated, “[The CAR-T cells are] much more potent than anything we can achieve [with other immune-based treatments being studied].”

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Preliminary trials were carried out on patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, for whom other forms of treatment had not worked. With the CAR-T cell therapy and memory T cells, cancer was eliminated in 27 out of 29 patients.

In the above left image, chemotherapy had failed to shrink the tumor in a patient’s kidney. In the image on the right, the genetically engineered CAR-T cells “melted away a lymphoma tumor,” according to Science News.

Stanley Riddell, an immunotherapy researcher at the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center also reported that memory CAR-T cell therapy removed tumors in six out of seven patients whose cancer had spread to other parts of the body. And because the CAR-T are a subset of T cells, only a very low dose of these immune cells were needed to rid patients of tumors, which lessens side effects for those undergoing treatment.

This is certainly an exciting step towards finding a cure for cancer.

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