Cancer researchers claim ‘unprecedented’ treatment breakthrough

15 Feb 2016

A team of cancer researchers is making quite a stir after demonstrating a new breakthrough in treatment that is being described as showing ‘extraordinary results’.

The cancer researchers revealed their findings at the recent American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting, with results that showed unprecedented success with their T-cell therapy method.

In T-cell therapy, patients afflicted with a type of cancer will see some of their immune cells removed and tagged with molecules – known as ‘receptor molecules’ – designed to target cancerous cells, which are then reintroduced into the body.

However, the treatment is not considered a first response to the diagnosis of cancer as the process can have potentially devastating side effects on the body, including cytokine release syndrome (sCRS), which can kill patients by causing a severe inflammatory immune response akin to an infection.

And yet, according to The Guardian, the research team is claiming considerable success with its T-cell treatment across dozens of patients tested with its method.

In one particular study of patients suffering from acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), 94pc of those administered with the new T-cell treatment saw a total eradication of symptoms, while patients with other forms of blood cancers were shown to have a positive response rate higher than 80pc.

‘Unprecedented in medicine’

One of the researchers, in presenting the findings, Stanley Riddel, said: “This is unprecedented in medicine, to be honest, to get response rates in this range in these very advanced patients.”

Riddel also went on to say that the risk of harmful effects potentially caused by T-cell treatment can be lowered by administering the treatment in a lower dose than is typically seen, but has erred on the side of caution by saying: “There are reasons to be optimistic, there are reasons to be pessimistic.”

Unsurprisingly, there are no claims of a miracle cure for cancer being announced from these findings anytime soon, as the researchers admit that they need to expand this T-cell therapy from just blood cancers to tumours, as well as tracking how long the cancerous cells can remain in remission.

The findings made by the research team from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Washington state will now be submitted to their scientific peers for review, but Riddel has said it could be a major therapeutic advancement for those suffering from cancer.

“Much like chemotherapy and radiotherapy, it’s not going to be a save-all,” he said. “I think immunotherapy has finally made it to a pillar of cancer therapy.”

Lymphocytes image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic