The US National Cancer Institute team in Bethesda, MD has successfully completed the first successful gene therapy treatment to rid a human of cancer.
For Mark Origer, 53, the treatment completely eliminated his skin cancer and another tumor on his liver shrunk enough that it could be removed surgically.
Dr Stephen Rosenberg and his team isolated T cells from the cancer patients and multiplied them in the lab.
- Next they used a virus to carry receptor genes into the T cells. These receptors are what enable the modified T cell to recognize specific cancers – in this case malignant melanoma.
- When the modified T cells were transfused into the patients they began to attack the tumor cells.
- For at least two months after the treatment, the modified cells made up at least 10% of the patients’ circulating T cells.
The scientists are now looking at ways to enable greater numbers of the modified T cells to survive.
Dr Rosenberg said: “We’ve identified T cell receptors that will now recognize common cancers.”