Engineering T-cells could be a way to cure cancer, scientists say

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Researchers now say they have a found a way to use electrical fields, not viruses, to deliver both gene-editing tools and new genetic material into the cell. By speeding the process, in theory a treatment could be available to patients with almost any type of cancer. “What takes months or even a year may now take a couple weeks using this new technology,” said Fred Ramsdell, vice president of research at the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy in San Francisco. “I think it’s going to be a huge breakthrough,” he added.

white-blood-cell
White blood cell

In the new study, Dr. Marson and his colleagues engineered T-cells to recognize human melanoma cells. In mice carrying the human cancer cells, the modified T-cells went right to the cancer, attacking it. As an exoeriment on humans, The researchers also corrected , in the lab, the T-cells of three children with a rare mutation that caused autoimmune diseases. The plan now is to return these corrected cells to the children, where they should function normally and suppress the defective immune cells, curing the children. The study describing the new method was published in Science Translational Medicine. Biologist Khalid Shah, director of the Center for Stem Cell Therapeutics and Imaging at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the leader of the study has an optimistic view. Other scientists who have investigated rehoming cancer cells said they can imagine a therapy based on these returning émigrés looking promising enough to enter clinical trials.

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