it's like a white blood cell distillery

Cancer patient recovers after injection of immune cells

A cancer patient has made a full recovery after being injected with billions of his own immune cells in the first case of its kind, doctors have disclosed. The 52-year-old, who was suffering from advanced skin cancer, was free from tumours within eight weeks of undergoing the procedure.

After two years he is still free from the disease which had spread to his lymph nodes and one of his lungs. Doctors took cells from the man's own defence system that were found to attack the cancer cells best, cloned them and injected back into his body.


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6 Responses:

  1. agentcooper says:

    The patient was one of nine with metastatic melanoma, that is skin cancer that has spread, who were being treated in a recently completed clinical trial.

    And the other 8 died a bad death, I suppose. Still, very interesting.

    • strspn says:

      Yeah, it's certainly worth trying to improve on that. They got to a very simple technique from some very much more complicated work. I'm sure there are a lot of cancer researchers asking themselves why they didn't think of it right now.

      Doomed can't be the right tag here; maybe the grim cancer cell-hook future.

      • rapier1 says:

        The idea is simple the technique is not though. The article itself says
        Prof Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK's chief clinician, said: "..."
        "Although the technique is complex and difficult to use for all but a few patients, the principle that someone's own immune cells can be expanded and made to work in this way is very encouraging for the work that Cancer Research UK and others are carrying out."

        So its an interesting idea and worth exploring but may be of limited usefulness.

        • With the eternal caveat of "unless there's a nuclear war / fundamentalist state / Butlerian jihad," it seems inevitable that eventually we'll make this technique work. So it's more a question of whether that's going to be useful to us, or whether that day is far enough off that we'll end up curing cancer some other way first.

          This doesn't really disagree with anything you say; just wanted to contribute a little technological utopianism.

        • strspn says:

          Certainly in practice it's very hard, like most new biotech therapies are. But the idea is simplicity: Extract immune system cells, select them for their effectiveness, clone bazillions and reintroduce them. This doesn't seem to me like the sort of thing that couldn't be automated.

          If you compare it to the complexity of what Steven Rosenberg at the National Cancer Institute -- the guy who has been working the longest with white blood cells that fight cancer -- has been trying to do with cocktails of various chemo drugs, proteins, interferons, or the gene therapy dead end, the Hutchinson Center work might have taken a lot of steps, but they are simple steps.

          A CMU research scientist made some of the first serum cell sorting machines using phosphorescent ligands. I am confident that this Hutchinson Center process is amenable to similar forms of automation.

          Plus, anything that saves people's lives with a variant-selection process is an added educational/culture wars bonus.

          • rapier1 says:

            A simple idea doesn't necessarily mean that implementing that idea is going to be easy or economical though. I'm not saying people shouldn't explore this idea - I think its great and may hold a lot of promise. I'm not ready to hang my hat on it though.