August 11, 2011

For years researchers have been painstakingly working on treating cancer by boosting the body’s immune system in an effort to have the immune system attack the cancer cells and not healthy cells. Much of the research has been hampered because the genetically modified T-cells introduced into the body to fight the cancer did not act or reproduce in the manner as hoped for and the modified cells quickly disappeared.

In a recent limited study involving three men who had advanced stages of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) for whom all other treatment options either failed or were not available to them had their blood drawn and the T-cells removed from the blood. The T-cells were genetically modified in a lab during which new genes were introduced into the T-cells (using HIV-derived lentiviral vectors) that directed them to kill the cancer cells and to multiply once the modified T-cells were re-introduced during three consecutive daily infusions. The new technique resulted in the T-cells killing the cancer cells and then continuing to kill cancer cells as they appeared. Prior research had established that T-cells attack viruses in this manner but this was the first time that T-cells had been genetically modified to kill cancer cells effectively.

Two of the three men who were part of the study were free of cancer in the short term after treatment and the third had improved but still had cancer. For one of the men in the study, he appeared cancer-free within one month and continued to be cancer-free after ten months (at the time the study results were written). The modified T-cells levels remained high when checked six months after the infusions. The long term success of the technique and whether there would be similar results with a greater number of cancer patients treated with the technique is presently unknown. There were some side-effects of the treatment but researchers are planning to test the technique with other types of cancer such as pancreatic cancer, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, and brain cancer.

Source: NEJM

While the study itself has limitations and qualifications, the initial (but limited) results are both exciting and hopeful for the many cancer patients whose treatments or response to treatments have been less than successful in eliminating their cancers. Much further and additional research is necessary, and longer term results and results with other cancers may prove less compelling, but this recent study should be applauded by medical researchers, treating physicians, and patients alike.

In the event that you or a family member had cancer that was misdiagnosed or late-diagnosed and you suffered as a result, you may have a valid claim for medical malpractice. Visit our website to be connected with medical malpractice lawyers in your area who may be able to investigate your possible medical malpractice claim and represent you with your claim, if appropriate. You may also contact us toll free at 800-295-3959. Turn to us when you don’t know where to turn.