A latest report says that after gene therapy transforms patients’ blood cells into fighters to seek and destroy cancer, a child leukemia patient has been cured with the gene therapy.
Several patients with same type of leukemia received a one-time, experimental therapy few years ago, and some of them remain cancer free. Over 120 patients with different types of blood and bone marrow cancer received treatment from at least six research groups have showed stunning improvement.
In one of the studies, five adults and 19 of 22 children with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) had a complete remission, meaning no cancer could be found after treatment, although a few have relapsed since then.
These gravely ill patients tried multiple bone marrow transplants and up to 10 types of chemotherapy or other treatments.
Eight-year-old Emily Whitehead was diagnosed with advanced cancer, her doctor said her major organs would fail within days. She was the first child that received gene therapy and showed no sign of cancer after two years.
Doctors say this treatment has the potential to be the first approved gene therapy in the United States, and the first for cancer worldwide. The only approved gene therapy in Europe is for treatment of a rare metabolic disease.
The treatment requires to filter patients’ blood to remove millions of white blood cells called T-cells, a gene that targets cancer is altered into these cells, and they will be returned to patients in infusion over three days. These permanently altered cells multiply in the body in to an army to fight against cancer.
The treatment can cause temporary flu-like symptoms and other side effects, but they are reversible.
Patients who received such treatment had different responses. A clinic treated 59 patients, of the first 14 patients with CLL, four had complete remissions, four had partial ones and the rest did not respond. But the cancer continue to shrink for a year or even long in some of the partial responders.
Eleven patients with lymphoma and four with CLL started receiving the treatment two years ago. 6 of them had complete remissions, six had partial ones, one has stable disease and it is still early to tell for the rest.
Ten other patients received gene therapy and try to kill leukemia or lymphoma remaining after bone marrow transplants. They got infusions of gene-treated blood cells from their transplant donor instead of using their own blood cells. One had a complete remission and three others had great reduction of their disease.