The technology is a "living drug" made from a patient's cells at one of the world's leading centers of cancer research.Dr. Steven Rosenberg, chief of surgery at the National Cancer Institute, told the BBC: "We're talking about the most highly personalized treatment imaginable."It remains experimental and still requires considerably more testing before it can be used more widely, but this is how it works: it starts by getting to know the enemy.
A patient's tumor is genetically analyzed to identify the rare changes that might make cancer visible to the immune system. Out of the 62 genetic abnormalities in this patient, only four were potential lines of attack. Next researchers go hunting. A patient's immune system will already be attacking the tumor; it's just losing the fight between white blood cells and cancer.
The scientists screen the patient's white blood cells and extract those capable of attacking cancer. These are then grown in considerable quantities in the laboratory. Around 90 billion were injected back into the 49-year-old patient, alongside drugs to take the brakes off the immune system.
Dr. Rosenberg told me: "The very mutations that cause cancer to turn out to be its Achilles heel. “These are the results from a single patient and much larger trials will be needed to confirm the findings. The challenge so far in cancer immunotherapy is it tends to work spectacularly for some patients, but the majority do not benefit.
Dr. Rosenberg added: "This is highly experimental and we're just learning how to do this, but potentially it applies to any cancer."A lot of works needs to be done, but the potential exists for a paradigm shift in cancer therapy - a different drug for every cancer patient - it is very different to any other kind of treatment."
Courtesy of BBC News