Gene Therapy a Cautious Success Against Leukemia

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It featured just five patients, but all five leukemia patients in a recent study achieved rapid and complete remission following gene therapy.

The patients are between the ages of 23 and 66, and all were diagnosed with relapsed acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) following standard chemotherapy. One patient was cancer-free just eight days after treatment began.

The procedure calls for taking T-cells, the infection- and disease-fighting cells of the immune system, and modifying them genetically in order to target a protein common to all ALL cells, CD19. The patient then receives the engineered cells, and they now hunt down the leukemia cells.

The findings were reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine. Lead author Renier J. Brentjens, a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, called the results "a very promising step forward."

ALL is a very rare disease with about 6,000 new cases diagnosed in the United States each year. Two-thirds of ALL patients are children.

While one patient was in remission after just eight days, the longest it took for any other patient was 59 days. However, one patient died 90 days later, and another died following complications of a bone marrow transplant.

Source: WSJ

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