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Immune cell therapy breakthrough in blood cancer treatment

The Bloodwise logo. Bloodwise appears in black text against a white background
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16 Feb 2016

Treatment that uses the immune system to attack blood cancer cells has had promising initial results in a clinical trial in America. Here's our take on the news.

Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Washington used a new type of T-cell therapy to treat 26 patients with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), all of whom did not respond to standard treatments and had been given months to live. Remarkably 24 of these patients were still in remission 18 months after treatment, although many suffered severe side effects. The treatment was also used to treat patients with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma with promising, but less dramatic, results.

Doctors have announced their findings at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

In T-cell therapy, doctors engineer the patient’s white blood cells to recognise certain cancer cells, giving the potential to provide a life-long cure.  Bloodwise is investing in many similar research projects and clinical trials that are using T-cell therapy to treat blood cancers.

Speaking to BBC News earlier today our Head of Research Dr Matt Kaiser said: “It is early days but the results from this latest clinical trial are hugely promising. The early success of the treatment in this particular group of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia patients is clearly dramatic. Many patients suffered from severe and in some cases fatal side-effects from the treatment, so the next step must be to reduce these. We need to establish which patients are most likely to benefit from T cell therapy and whether it can offer a long-term cure.”

Matt has also been talking about the findings and what it could mean going forwards for patients to a number of BBC local radio stations while Bloodwise Ambassadors Sarah Weltman and Luke Ponsonby appeared on the BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC World Service respectively. 

Watch ALL patient George Norton's interview on BBC News at 10. George appears about 9 minutes and 30 seconds in to the programme. 

Find out more about our research and how we're beating blood cancer.