Gene Altering Cells Can Save Leukemia Patients

For most patients battling cancer, chemotherapy is very much a love-hate relationship. We often hear it kills the bad cells but, unfortunately, also the good ones. Thanks to a successful trial, leukemia patients may see more luck with this gene-altering treatment.

A Food and Drug Administration panel opened a new era in medicine on Wednesday, unanimously recommending that the agency approve the first-ever treatment that genetically alters a patient’s own cells to fight cancer, transforming them into what scientists call “a living drug” that powerfully bolsters the immune system to shut down the disease.

Each patient receives a unique treatment. T-cells (or white blood cells) are “reprogrammed” and can destroy up to 100,000 cancer cells. One dose of the treatment has led to full recovery, as taken from the case of experimental patient Emily Whitehead. Of 63 patients who also received the treatment, 52 went into remission.

The next step… will be to determine “what we can combine it with and is there a way to use it in the future to treat patients with less disease, so that the immune system is in better shape and really able to fight.”

Patients who did not survive despite the treatment at least saw their lives prolonged. The treatment is now receiving FDA approval.

For cancer patients, the future is definitely seeing some sun. If it isn’t perfect, at least it’s brighter.

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