A team of US researchers have successfully cured advanced melanoma skin cancer by manipulating the genes of white blood cells causing them to attack the cancer cells.
A team of researchers the US National Cancer Institute (NCI) have confirmed in their research that are published in the journal Science that advanced melanoma, which is considered as the most deadly type of skin cancer can be continuously reduced by genetically engineering the patients own white blood cells (WBC) in recognising and attacking the cancer cells.
The researchers explained that they had successfully undertook this line of treatment for two patients, who were expected to live for up to six months only, and that the patients are now are cancer-free even after 18 months of the treatment. Dr Elias A. Zerhouni, director of the US National Institutes of Health, said, 'These results represent the first time gene therapy has been used successfully to treat cancer. Moreover, we hope it will be applicable not only to melanoma, but also for a broad range of common cancers, such as breast and lung cancer.'
The researchers explained that the WBC's of the body, or the lymphocytes, had been in the past used for treating certain types of skin cancer. They explained to have tried out the method on 17 patients in three different groups, by injecting into them the patients own lymphocytes that had been altered by the genetic introduction of T cell receptors, which guide the cells to find and destroy cancer tumour cells.
Stating that unfortunately these methods had failed to stall the disease in the first three groups, the researchers explained that they then tried to modify the treatment by injecting the genetically manipulated lymphocytes into the patients when the cells were at their most active growth phase. They explained that they then found that this generated better results.
They further stated that of the remaining 14 patients, in 2 of them the cancer had retreated and they have been disease free for almost a year. And that in the remaining two groups the patients continued to have significantly high levels of cancer-fighting cells even after a month of receiving the gene therapy.
Elias Zerhouni said, 'We hope is will be applicable not only to melanoma, but also for a broad range of common cancers, such as breast and lung cancer.'