ABC World News: New Cancer Treatment Breakthrough For Leukemia and Other Cancers.

Aug 11 ,2011 – ABC’s World News with Diane Sawyer reported this week on a new cancer treatment that cancer specialists across the nation are calling amazing, exciting and pretty remarkable!  It was tried on three leukemia patients and because of the stunningly successful outcomes, the treatment has been called the most significant advance in cancer research in decades.  ABC’s Linsey Davis explains how the treatment works.

Linsey reported that the three patients were in the most advance stages of leukemia with very little treatment options.  The University of Pennsylvania’s (Penn Medicine) experiment created armies of what they called serial killer cells.  Blood was taken from each patient and the T cells that the body uses to fight disease were removed.  Scientists then inserted a modified harmless version of HIV into those cells.  Then millions of those genetically engineered cells were then injected back into the patients.  Their intent was to use the patient’s own blood cells to kill the cancer cells. And it worked!  Not only did the treatment destroy the existing cancer but new cancer as it emerged.

For two weeks there was no change in the patients.  Then they became violently ill with extreme flu symptoms.  But this was a sign that the therapy was working.  One year after treatment, two of the patients are still cancer free.  The third has improved.

Dr. Len Lichtenfeld from The American Cancer Society, said to ABC that this is an exciting study because it takes principles that we have been working on for decades, applies them to patients, and produces truly meaningful results.  The goal now is to find out how long these remissions last.

Dr. Len Lichtenfeld explains that these engineered cells hang around in the body for some time which may be helpful but may also be hurtful, so we really have more to learn before we can say this should be generally used for patients with this type of leukemia.

Linsey Davis reported that scientists are already preparing to try the same technique to treat other types of cancer including pancreatic, ovarian, prostate and even brain cancer.

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