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T-Cell Therapy, a Promising Panacea for Leukemia?

Dec 06, 2016 04:16 AM EST

Immunotherapy is a groundbreaking way of treatment that focuses on empowering the immune system to fight cancer and other ailments. Bone marrow transplantation is an excellent example of immunotherapy, which is the Nobel Prize-winning work of Fred Hutch. Leukemia is one of the major cancers that experts believe could benefit greatly from immune-based cancer treatments.

A new study from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center gives hope to leukemia patients through T-cell therapy, which lead author Dr. Aude Chapuis believes is even better.

A first trial of the particular approach, the team focused on a high-risk group - acute myeloid leukemia patients undergoing bone marrow transplant who had certain genetic or disease characteristics that decrease the chance of long-term transplant success, which Dr. Chapuis called, "a hard population of patients," many of whom "were horribly sick."

"If you've got high-risk disease, you've got a really bad prognosis, even if you do transplant," she added.

Of the 12 AML patients who received this experimental T-cell therapy after a transplant put their disease in remission, all 12 are still in remission after a median follow-up of more than two years. On the contrary, researchers observed an opposite result in a cohort of AML patients who received transplants around the same time but did not receive engineered T cells. In all of these transplant-only patients, the transplants produced remissions. However, more than a quarter of these patients relapsed within 10 months, Eureka Alert reports.

Most patients with acute myeloid leukemia relapse (which is the return of cancer or its symptoms after a period of remission or improvement) after a bone marrow transplant, making their survival rate even lower. But according to Dr. Chapuis, giving T-cell therapy after transplant when the disease is in remission may actually preempt the overall possibility of relapse in the future in high-risk patients.

The paper entitled "1001 EBV-Specific Donor Cells Transduced to Express a High-Affinity WT1 TCR Can Prevent Recurrence in Post-HCT Patients with High-Risk AML" was presented last December 5 at the 2016 annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology in San Diego, California.

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