In patients with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, researchers have found a way to turn cells in the patients' own immune system into cancer-fighting machines. In a new study, researchers injected patients with a drug that helped immune cells attach themselves to tumor cells. The study saw considerable improvement in only 11 of the 38 patients in this preliminary trial, but researchers say the results are significant because all seven of the patients who received the highest dose of medication saw their tumors shrink. In four cases, the tumors completely vanished. The new results are the latest promising finding in the developing field of immunotherapy, in which the body's own defenses are augmented and then unleashed to fight back disease. Researchers are also investigating ways to train the immune system to attack brain cancer tumors, and in June
The new treatment, which was reported in the journal Science [subscription required],
uses a protein that binds immune cells with cancer-fighting properties to tumor cells, releasing toxins that destroy the disease more effectively at the site. It is the first time scientists have found a way to link the so-called T cells to cancer cells in the patient [The Baltimore Sun].
Researcher Dr Patrick Baeuerle said: "These cells circulate in our body stuffed with ammunition - little vesicles filled with toxins. It is just a matter of attaching them to the tumour cells and making them fire. The drug tickles the T cell in a very special way so that it fires and won't stop firing until the tumour cells have gone. It turns them into serial killers" [Daily Mail].
The research team plans to test the same method on patients with other types of cancer in the near future. Image: iStockphoto Related Post: With Help, a Patient's Own Immune System Fights off Skin Cancer