Thanks to the advancement of gene sequencing techniques such as high-throughput genome sequencing, capable of breaking down an entire genome in a single day, a new cancer cell therapy treatment may become available to patients.
Successfully used to treat Melinda Bachini, a 45 year old Montana woman suffering from a rare bile-duct cancer after standard chemotherapy failed and resulted in hair loss and nerve damage, Bachini researched and decided to try the new experimental cancer therapy.
Reported in the journal Science, Dr. Steven Rosenberg’s team at the National Cancer Institute used a combination of cutting-edge genomics and recent insights into the human immune system. They identified specific CD4 T-cells attacking the cancer in Bachini’s body, then literally pulled them off the tumor they were attacking and grew them in lab to later re-infuse into Bachini.
Treating Bachini first with strong chemotherapy to kill competing immune cells, she then underwent 2 rounds of this new treatment. The first reduced symptoms immediately and proceeded to shrink the tumors over 6 months. A second became necessary when the tumors began to grow back. All the mutations present in the cancer – and their associated T-Cells – had to be isolated, grown, and re-infused in order to eradicate the tumors.
This new immunotherapy for cancer is hoped to be used as a blueprint for attacking other types of cancers. Bachini’s case was the first to be treated with this personalized approach and also the first time doctors have been able to target a specific mutation in the immune system. It is anticipated further research into this alternative cancer therapy will provide additional treatment options for a wide array of cancers in the not-too-distant future.