Did you know that one in three women and one in two men will be diagnosed with a form of cancer at some point in their lives? The statistics are scary and startling, but there is renewed hope, as more treatments are being discovered.
Researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York are testing a new treatment for patients suffering from acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), an often lethal form of cancer.
The experimental treatment involves isolating infection-fighting T cells from the bloodstream, genetically altering them with a disabled virus, then re-injecting the cells into the body. The virus essentially reprograms the T cells to recognize and attack cancer cells. Unlike traditional chemotherapy, which kills both healthy and harmful cells, this new technology allows the immune system to seek out and destroy cancer cells, without damaging the body’s healthy cells.
In addition to targeting cancer, doctors are hoping to use modified viruses to treat other autoimmune disorders, where the body’s immune system attacks itself.
City of Hope is one of the cancer research and treatment institutions on the forefront of testing this groundbreaking targeted therapy to eradicate cancer.
“This is very exciting. As we know that each person’s cancer is unique, to be able to tailor specific therapies for that patient, that holds great promise,” explains Dr. Michael Friedman, CEO and Director of the Comprehensive Cancer Center at City of Hope. “For many patients, standard treatments are very effective, and we’re curing hundreds of thousands of patients with those treatments. But for patients with very severe diseases, difficult diseases, or patients who have failed traditional therapies, these experimental treatments offer two things: the chance of real benefits for that patient, but also, at the same time, knowledge that can help patients everywhere,” he adds.
“We are already curing cancers, now. But there are still some diseases that are so difficult and so refractory – lung cancer, pancreas cancer, brain cancer and so forth. For those diseases, our treatments today, even the research, doesn’t give us what we need. Those are the challenges for the future, but I believe that, by working together, we can make so much more progress,” Dr. Friedman says.
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