Girl’s Own Immune System Engineered to Fight Leukemia

Girl’s Own Immune System Engineered to Fight Leukemia

GIRL IS CANCER-FREE THANKS TO A NEW IMMUNOTHERAPY FOR CHILDHOOD ACUTE LYMPHOBLASTIC LEUKEMIA: EMILY’S STORY

9-year-old Emily Whitehead is the first girl to be cured, as of 2012, of a highly aggressive form of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) via a novel form of immunotherapy against leukemia. Emily did not respond successfully to chemotherapy before she entered a new trial led by Stephan A. Grupp, M.D., Ph.D., a pediatric oncologist at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and a Professor of Pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Grupp’s team bio-engineered T-cells to work not against pathogens, viruses, or bacteria but to recognize and kill the leukemic cells that normally evade regular
T-cell surveillance.

 

What is a T-cell?

T-cells are a type of white blood cells that circulate around our bodies, scanning for cellular abnormalities and infections.

 

Adding a receptor on T-cells allows them to recognize the
target cell (in this case the cancer cell) and kill it.
Our immune system often struggles to recognize cancer cells
as foreign because cancer cells are very similar to
many other cells in our body.

 

Researchers first extracted the patient’s own T-cells and added a receptor to the cells that recognize antigens, an antenna that specifically mark these cancer cells. Once the T-cell receptor binds to the cancer cell antigen, the T-cell is able to kill the cancer cell as effectively as our immune system kills other viruses and bacteria. This is a powerful method that uses the patient’s own immune system against cancer.

 

This past July, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration designated this so called “CTL019 approach” as a Breakthrough Therapy, helping to expedite its progress into broader clinical trials. . While in its very early days, the future looks promising for such therapies.

 

The source of the news can be found here.

 

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