T Cells….Ready, aim, fire!

“I am a warrior and it is the way of a warrior to fight superior odds.”  Wildlife activist, Paul Watson said it and little did he know those words would apply to a major breakthrough that’s about to happen in cancer treatment.

Gene therapy for certain cancers is about to receive FDA approval.

The warriors in this major shift in treatment are the T cells in our own individual immune systems.  These are the cells capable of going after a tumor and killing it.  To say this has been a long, hard battle in the lab and research centers to reach this place, is an understatement.

Scientists are calling this a “living drug.”  This gene therapy or technique must be created for each patient.  Their cells are removed, frozen and shipped to a Novartis plant, the drug company positioned to become the first to genetically alter these cells.  Those cells are thawed, processed, frozen again and shipped back to the treatment center where the patient is waiting to go to war against their cancer.  In this case,  a specific type of leukemia will be the first line of attack.

These re-engineered CAR T cells have been boosted or ‘armed’ with the weapons to recognize and attack the cancer resulting in long remissions and in some cases cures.

Yes, there are side effects.  Some are very strong and some patients have spent lengthy stays in the ICU.

Because this is a very complex treatment, Novartis is limiting its use to a limited number of medical centers where staff has been trained and approved to administer it.

Dr. Carl H. June, from the University of Pennsylvania, whose team developed the procedure, calls these T cells, “serial killers.”  A single supercharged cell can destroy up to a hundred-thousand cancer cells.

That’s a warrior to be reckoned with, for sure.

The war is shifting and the warriors fighting cancer are finding new ways to advance and destroy.

Music to my ears.

 

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