Reprogramming White Blood Cells to Kill Cancer

#Science

Wed, Sep 14th, 2011 20:00 by capnasty NEWS

This is pretty insane: in this experimental therapy that you'd think belongs to sci-fi, doctors genetically modified white blood cells so that they would attack cancer cells in patients. Of the three people that have tried this new treatment, one is showing signs of improvement and two are in complete remission.

From the article in the New York Times:

Doctors removed a billion of his T-cells -- a type of white blood cell that fights viruses and tumors -- and gave them new genes that would program the cells to attack his cancer. Then the altered cells were dripped back into Mr. Ludwig's veins.

At first, nothing happened. But after 10 days, hell broke loose in his hospital room. He began shaking with chills. His temperature shot up. His blood pressure shot down. He became so ill that doctors moved him into intensive care and warned that he might die. His family gathered at the hospital, fearing the worst.

A few weeks later, the fevers were gone. And so was the leukemia.

There was no trace of it anywhere -- no leukemic cells in his blood or bone marrow, no more bulging lymph nodes on his CT scan. His doctors calculated that the treatment had killed off two pounds of cancer cells.

A year later, Mr. Ludwig is still in complete remission. Before, there were days when he could barely get out of bed; now, he plays golf and does yard work.

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