Acute lymphoblastic leukemia progresses very rapidly and results in death within weeks when left untreated. When the cancer is relapsed, bone marrow transplant is the only choice of treatment in case the patient survives long enough to receive the treatment.
Renier J. Brentjens, cancer specialist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and his team treated five patients with relapsed lethal leukemia with gene therapy. Researchers modified the T-cells from the patients' own immune system to target the protein CD19 present in the cancer cells.
Specialists observed complete remission in all the five patients within 59 days, while one patient was completely cured after 8 days of treatment. After remission, patients were given a bone marrow transplant.
However, side effect like high fever and a drop in blood pressure was seen in to patients. One patient relapsed after 90 days and died, while another died due to pulmonary embolism.
Though the study has produced profound results, the intensity of side effects needs to investigated in a large study.