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New cell therapy offers hope of a leukemia cure

Health

A PIONEERING cancer treatment that teaches the body to attack rogue cells has offered hope of a cure.

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File picture: The results of an experimental blood cancer treatment have been hailed as amazing.

It eradicated the disease in 94 per cent of patients, one early trial showed.

It has shown particular promise for leukaemia and blood cancer, which together affect 30,000 new UK patients each year.

Doctors at the world’s largest cancer conference said the treatment, known as CAR-T cell therapy, involves taking a sample of blood and genetically altering the body’s own killer cells.

These cells are injected back into the body where they multiply and attack cancers.

One trial presented to the American Society of Clinical Oncology conference in Chicago showed that it had eradicated the disease in eight out of nine patients.

The patients had an aggressive form of cancer which is considered incurable – chronic lymphocytic leukaemia.

Yet six months after having the treatment they had no traces of the disease.

Dr Saar Gill, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, who led the trial, said: ‘Our hope is that this disease is so deeply in remission that it never comes back.’

A second trial showed that the treatment eradicated leukaemia in 33 out of 35 patients – 94 per cent.

These patients had multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer, and were monitored for two months after their treatment. Dr Wanhong Zhao, lead author from Xi’an Jiaotong University in China, said the treatment may offer ‘a chance for a cure in multiple myeloma’, but patients needed to be tested for longer to find out.

Leukaemia, which affects the bone marrow, and myeloma are hard to treat as they do not produce solid tumours that can be surgically removed.

Around half of patients do not survive beyond five years. These trials have offered hope that a one-off treatment – administered for four hours over three or four hospital visits – could offer a permanent cure.CAR-T cell therapy is a form of immunotherapy, which has led to a ‘new era’ of cancer treatment.

The procedure is so far only being developed by a few hospitals, including Great Ormond Street Hospital in London.

Dr Aine McCarthy, of Cancer Research UK, said the results were ‘promising’. She added: ‘Modifying cells from a patient’s own immune system and using them to treat cancer ... has been showing potential in leukaemia and lymphoma in recent years.’

© Daily Mail

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