Modified Immune Cells Help in the Fight Against Cancer

The search for a cure for cancer has eluded medical science since the first records of the debilitating disease.

However, researchers from two partnership institutes at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) have completed initial trials for a new approach to combatting cancer: a genetically modified type of immune cell.

Cancer is the umbrella term used to for a wide-range of afflictions where cells multiply uncontrollably. he body’s immune cells fail to recognise these cells as a threat, and do not attack. In recent years, scientists have attempted to instruct the immune system to destroy these cancerous cells.

The team at UPenn have modified the immune system response by removing the genes from the cells which would otherwise stop them from attacking the malignant ones. They went one step further by adding a virus to those immune cells to specifically attack the proteins that are typically found in cancer cells.

Professor Carl June, head of the study, said: “These cells have shown a sustained ability to attack and kill tumours.”

The first phase has produced promising results, but was purely to test the safety of the treatment. The next step will be to see how efficient it is, then conclude its absolute safety. Three patients had enrolled in the study – two are receiving other treatments, but the third has since died.