“This is another example of the growing field of cancer immunotherapy, which was designated by Science magazine as the breakthrough of the year,” said Craig Devoe, MD, at the Monter Cancer Center, part of the North Shore-LIJ Cancer Institute. “It’s something that’s been in development for many years.”
Using a technique known as adopted cell therapy, researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) deciphered the genetic makeup of a woman with a deadly type of cancer. Then, they identified cells from her immune system that could target mutations in her malignant cells.
The researchers grew those immune cells in a laboratory and infused them back into her bloodstream.
The woman, a 43-year-old mother of six, had been battling bile duct cancer that had not responded to chemotherapy. Frustrated with her lack of progress, she went online and found a clinical trial that NCI was doing on an experimental therapy for advanced cases of gastrointestinal cancers.
The results of her treatment appear in a study published May 8 in the journal Science.
While her tumors are shrinking, they are not gone, the researchers say.
Immunotherapy has been used in the past several years to treat melanoma and kidney cancers, but has not been very successful with colon, lung, breast and prostate cancers.
“Chemotherapy is not the end of the line anymore, there are other options,” said Dr. Craig, who advises people to look for clinical studies like this one.