Breakthrough Gene Therapy Thought to Be an Effective Treatment for Some Kinds of Cancers Just Turned Deadly
Immunotherapy represents a whole new approach for combating several types of human cancers. The tactic involves scientists genetically reprogramming the cells of a person’s immune system to target and attack malignancies. Immunotherapy is now considered the “fifth pillar” of cancer treatments, rapidly evolving into a more promising tool for battling cancer than standard radiation and chemotherapeutic treatments.
Although there are many different immunotherapies in development and practice, chimeric antigen receptor T-cells (CAR-T) therapy has shown the most promise to date. Indeed, CAR-T therapy is the first anti-cancer gene therapy to be approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use against advanced adult lymphomas and childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Unfortunately, just recently, a patient given CAR-T therapy for aggressive leukemia died as result of the treatment.
A new immunotherapy has shown hugely promising results treating chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), a mostly slow-growing type of cancer in which abnormal lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) in the bone marrow become cancerous and spread into the blood.
In CLL, the leukemia cells often build up slowly over time and people may not show symptoms for years. Eventually, the cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body, such as the lymph nodes, liver, and spleen, and become harder to treat with traditional cancer regimens. Every year, the American Cancer Society reports about 20,110 new cases of the disease, and approximately 4,660 deaths are expected from CLL in 2017.