I’ve talked about how immunotherapy might be the weapon of the future for battling cancer. Well, last week word came out that University of Pennsylvania researchers found a way to turn human T cells into leukemia tumor cell “serial killers.”
Here’s how the treatment works. The team took out some T cells from a patient, fused them with a virus, coated them with a tracker that would find a protein only found in the tumors and a minority of healthy cells, and then infused them back into the patient. Even better, they created a second bomb that would go off once the first tumor was attacked– it caused the cell to “trigger other T cells to multiply — building a bigger and bigger army until all the target cells in the tumor are destroyed.” (Image: what happens when you drop water on a gremlin.)
These sociopath T cells destroyed “at least a 1,000″ tumor cells each, an impressive statistic that even surprised the researchers. Better than that, the patients for the most part only exhibited normal flu symptoms during the treatment.
They only tried the therapy on three patients, so we have a long way to go before we know how well this therapy can work on a more diverse population and whether there are long-term issues, but it certainly looks promising.