An Immune System Trained to Kill Cancer

September 13, 2011

The New York Times

The cover story of today's New York Times "Science Times" section explores the decades worth of research that led to an Abramson Cancer Center team's breakthrough in the treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia using a gene therapy technique, reported earlier this summer in the New England Journal of Medicine and Science Translational Medicine. The work, the New York Times wrote, "may signify a turning point in the long struggle to develop effective gene therapies against cancer. And not just for leukemia patients: other cancers may also be vulnerable to this novel approach — which employs a disabled form of H.I.V.-1, the virus that causes AIDS, to carry cancer-fighting genes into the patients’ T-cells. In essence, the team is using gene therapy to accomplish something that researchers have hoped to do for decades: train a person’s own immune system to kill cancer cells." Carl June, MD, director of Translational Research in the Abramson Cancer Center, who led the work, called the techniques “a harvest of the information from the molecular biology revolution over the past two decades.” The story also profiles one of the three patients treated on the new protocol, who is now in a complete remission. Before, there were days when the man could barely get out of bed; now, he plays golf does yard work, and travels with his wife in their RV. “I have my life back,” he said. June's collaborators David Porter, MD, Bruce Levine, PhD, Michael Kalos, PhD, and Alison Loren, MD, are mentioned in the story for their role in the research and care of the patients... Read More

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