There is increased interest to use the body’s immune system to fight against cancer. A technique has been perfected to genetically alter the patient’s immune system to destroy tumors. The technique was found to be effective in treating the disease in 14 of the 16 patients in various advanced stages of cancer.

The latest breakthrough has been credited to researchers from the Sloan-Kettering Memorial Cancer Center and is one more step in the race to bring the cancer immunotherapy treatments to the market. Already Juno Therapeutics Inc has embarked on a mid stage or phase 2 study of the treatment process which is based upon the results of the study. Novartis SA is also in the race and is planning a phase 2 trial of a similar strategy developed at the University of Pennsylvania.

The patients were all suffering from ALL or acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is a very aggressive form of cancer and all the patients were treated with standard anti cancer drugs before they relapsed. In the preliminary results, the researchers reported complete remission in 5 patients. The new study which was published in Science Translational Medicine includes 11 more patients.  Among the 16 patients 88% showed complete response to the treatment. This meant that the researchers could not find any molecular evidence of cancer.

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