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Science researchers genetically transform immune cells into tumor fighters

A team of researchers has genetically engineered normal immune cells to become specialized tumor fighters, demonstrating for the first time that these engineered cells can persist in the body and shrink large tumors in humans.

Two of the 17 people with advanced melanoma who received the experimental treatment saw their tumors shrink and were declared clinically free of disease more than a year and half after the therapy began, Steven A. Rosenberg of the National Cancer Institute and his colleagues report in a study published online by the journal Science at the Science Express website on 31 August. Science and Science Express are published by AAAS, the nonprofit science society.

So far, the therapy has only been used in this small group of melanoma patients, but Rosenberg says his team has demonstrated ways to engineer similar immune cells in the laboratory that would attack more common tumors such as breast, lung and liver cancers.

The technique developed by the Science researchers "represents the first time that gene manipulations have been shown to cause tumor regression in humans," Rosenberg says.

"This work marks an important next step in harnessing the power of our immune systems to fight cancer. The publication of this paper should help highlight the significant work to a broad spectrum of people, including patients, clinicians and those involved in basic research," said Stephen Simpson, Science's senior editor, immunology.

Rosenberg and colleagues have a long history of looking for ways to boost the body's natural immune defenses against cancer, focusing specifically on T cells, a special type of immune cell that can recognize and attack "foreign" cells such as those found in tumors. In their earlier experiments, the researchers removed tumor-fighting T cells from melanoma patients and multiplied these cells in the laboratory. After using chemotherapy to clear out a patient's old T cells, the researchers repopulat
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Source:American Association for the Advancement of Science


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