Stem cell transplants have become an increasingly common procedure for hard-to-treat cancers. The goal is to restore the immune system. But it can take months or even years for stem cells to become immune cells, and during that time the patient is at risk for serious infection. Now, researchers have taken cell transplants one step further with incredible results.
Ed Bauter was diagnosed with lymphoma at age 14 and Doctors offered him an experimental treatment.
In Ed Bauters case , doctors remove white blood cells and bring them to the lab. Here, they're multiplied and mixed with beads attached to a protein. When the new cells are put back into the body, they're better able to attack foreign substances, like the cancer.
Researchers say, "What we want to do is tilt the balance in favor of the immune system and away from the tumor or lymphoma."
In a study of 16 patients, five went into complete remission, seven had partial remission, and four had their disease stabilize.
"Given that this was a very advanced, very ill population of patients, the responses that we saw were very encouraging for using this technique," says researchers.
"With what I was diagnosed with 10 to 15 years ago, I would not have had a chance," says Bauter. Not only is he alive, he's getting ready to start college in the fall.
This procedure is not just for lymphoma. Studies are also being done in patients with leukemia, myeloma, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, other solid cancers and HIV.