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New technique extends cancer-fighting cells' potency in melanoma patients
Date:4/27/2011

BOSTON--Like brainy bookworms unprepared for the rough and tumble of post-graduation life, white blood cells trained by scientists to attack tumors tend to fade away quickly when injected into cancer patients. Dana-Farber Cancer Institute scientists, however, have developed a technique that can cause such cells to survive in patients' bloodstreams for well over a year, in some cases, without the need of other, highly toxic treatments, a new study shows.

In a paper published in the Apr. 27 issue of Science Translational Medicine, the researchers report the results of a small, Phase I study in which the technique -- a form of "adoptive immunotherapy" -- was tested in nine patients with advanced melanoma. Ten weeks after starting the therapy, seven of the nine patients had more of the specially trained, tumor-hunting cells than they had started with. Three of the patients had stable disease -- neither advancing nor retreating -- and one had shrinkage of a tumor that had spread to the lung. Another patient experienced a complete remission, with no tumors visible on CT or PET scans. Today, 25 months after receiving the one-time therapy, he has no evidence of cancer.

The results represent the longest that the injected cells -- known as anti-tumor T cells -- have ever endured in cancer patients without the use of supplemental treatments -- treatments that, while effective, often have harsh side effects. "The study demonstrates it is possible to maintain high levels of anti-tumor T cells in patients over a long period of time while avoiding the complications of conventional approaches," says the study's lead author, Marcus Butler, MD, of Dana-Farber's Early Drug Development Center. "Our technique opens the way to therapies that produce less-toxic, long-lasting immune system attacks on cancer cells."

The technique's promise was further illustrated when researchers combined it with another treatment. Five patients whose disease had p
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Contact: Anne Doerr
anne_doerr@dfci.harvard.edu
617-632-5665
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Source:Eurekalert  

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New technique extends cancer-fighting cells' potency in melanoma patients
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