An experimental therapy that extracts and multiplies powerful immune-system cells from inside tumors eradicated a patient’s breast cancer, a scientific first that could lead to new ways of treating malignancies that have resisted all other efforts.
Researchers at the US National Cancer Institute gave the experimental treatment to a 49-year-old woman whose cancer came roaring back after a decade in remission. The woman had tennis-ball-sized tumors in her liver and growing through her chest wall. Despite seven types of chemotherapy and hormonal therapy, her disease was still growing.
Using a biopsy, researchers plucked rare cells custom-made by the immune system from inside tumors, but in numbers too small to help a patient on their own. They grew copies of the cells in the lab, multiplying them into billions over a period of weeks. They were then infused back into the patient.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Two-and-a-half years after getting the new cells, the woman is cancer-free. The method, while still in its infancy, also shrank hard-to-treat tumors in six other patients with colon and cervical cancers, said Steven Rosenberg, chief of surgery at the institute.
“They are attacking their own cancers,” Rosenberg said in an interview. “It’s as highly personalized as a treatment can be. We are creating a new drug for every patient, targeting the unique mutations in that same patient’s cancer.” So far, the researchers have treated 40 patients, all with types of tumors that account for 80 percent of cancer deaths, according to Rosenberg. Seven have responded to the therapy.
The immunotherapy field has seen major breakthroughs in the past year, including the approval of two so-called CAR-T (chimeric antigen receptor T-cells) treatments from Gilead Sciences Inc and Novartis AG that extract T-cells from a patient’s blood and re-engineer them to recognize malignancies. Drugmakers have had less success using that technique on widespread solid tumors.
Rosenberg’s team takes a different tack. The researchers isolate rare T-cells that each patient produces in response to unique mutations that fuel the development of their cancer. Minute amounts of these natural T-cells infiltrate the tumor, though they aren’t present in high enough quantities to combat the growing cancer, Rosenberg said. After extracting the tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes from a biopsy, his team can multiply the cells and give billions of them back to the patient.
The group is getting better at identifying the rare T-cells that can attack the tumor, finding three times more of them in samples than they were even three months ago, Rosenberg said. There is still a long way to go, he said, but it’s an approach that isn’t specific to a certain cancer type, meaning it could evolve into an effective therapy for many forms of the disease, he said.
The results were published Monday in the scientific journal Nature Medicine.
1. extract v.
(ti2 qu3; cui4 qu3)
2. tumor n.
3. malignancy n.
(e4 xing4 zhong3 liu2)
4. remission n.
(huan2 jie3 qi2)
5. biopsy n.
(huo2 ti3 zu3 zhi1 qie1 pian4)
6. still in its infancy
(chu3 yu2 fa1 zhan3 chu1 qi2)
7. mutation n.
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B: So was Spot OK? A: I checked her over and found she had a wound on her right back leg. B: Had she been attacked? A: No, it looks like she had caught her leg on a sharp object. She was still bleeding profusely. B: 所以小花還好嗎？ A: 我把牠全身都檢查過一遍，結果發現牠右後腿上有一個傷口。 B: 牠是不是遭到攻擊了？ A: 沒有耶，看起來牠是不小心讓腿碰到尖銳的東西。我發現的時候牠還在大量流血。 English 英文: Chinese 中文: