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Modified T Cells Are Effective in Treating Blood-Borne Cancers

New NCI data presented at hematology meeting (December 9)

Findings from two clinical trials evaluating the use of genetically modified immune-system T cells as cancer therapy were presented Dec. 9 at the 2013 American Society of Hematology (ASH) meeting in New Orleans. Both studies were sponsored by the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

According to the NCI, the reports represent important advances in the understanding of gene therapy for the treatment of advanced blood-borne cancers.

In the first study, T cells were removed from 15 adult patients. The patients were treated with chemotherapy, and were then given an infusion of their own T cells, which had been genetically modified in the laboratory. Success with this type of therapy in lymphomas was first reported in 2010. In the new study, investigators demonstrated that the same approach is effective in patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, the most common type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Six patients achieved complete remission, and six achieved partial remission. This approach offers an option for patients with chemotherapy-resistant large B-cell cancer who are not candidates for other forms of stem-cell transplantation, the authors say.

In the second study, the researchers used genetically modified T cells to treat B-cell cancers, such as leukemia and lymphoma, that did not fully respond to the transplantation of stem cells from a donor. Ten patients received no treatment except one infusion of genetically modified T cells that were obtained from related or unrelated stem-cell transplant donors. Three of the patients experienced significant disease regression, with one patient showing complete remission. None of the patients experienced graft-versus-host disease (GVHD).

The results are encouraging, the authors say, because they show that small numbers of modified T cells can cause regression of highly treatment-resistant B-cell cancers without causing GVHD. This finding indicates a possible new treatment approach for patients with aggressive forms of these cancers that have proved resistant to other treatment approaches, including stem-cell transplantation from donors.

Source: NCI; December 9, 2013.

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