Two babies have been saved from incurable leukemia because of this gene-editing therapy, and now more people can be saved too!
In the Science Translational Medicine journal, a European group of scientists announced that two girls remained cancer-free 18 and 12 months after being given a novel treatment. What they did was genetically engineer their white blood cells to provide them with the capacity to target cancerous cells in their bodies efficiently.
The scientists note that “molecular remissions were achieved within 28 days in both infants,” an astonishingly short time. At present, the two babies have shown no signs of the acute lymphocytic leukemia they were once battling, suggesting that this “strategy demonstrates the therapeutic potential of gene-editing technology.”
The type of cancer the babies had is an aggressive one. This cancer starts within the bone marrow and quickly penetrates the blood, then other organs. It’s difficult to treat this type of cancer and is often deadly within several months.
So without the great work from the team at both Cellectis, a French Biotech firm, and London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital these two babies would not be around today.
This method has been used previously by many drug companies. However, the engineered white blood cells were extracted from patients that are also undergoing treatment.
The thing is that young children, do not have much white blood cells, and taking any away from their bodies could reduce their immune system to a dangerous point. So, what they did, in this case, was to get killer cells from healthy donors and then engineered them to attack the cancer cells in the babies.
But the babies’ bodies could have reacted to the “alien white cells” injected into their bodies. Fortunately, it was not the case, at least initially.
The scientists noted that one baby had a poor immune reaction to the treatment after two months of the procedure. But after the baby received a round of steroids and some bone marrow transplantation, she’s now well. The other baby also reacted, but in a less severe way.
This could be one of the ways to save many lives in the future, both young and old. With this transference method appearing to be effective, scientists suggest that it could be a therapy that works for all donors regardless of age or relative immune system strength. Of course, more work is needed to confirm that this works for others, such as adults and older children. However, this trial is impressive and incredibly successful.
As you know, cancer comes in different forms, each with different ways to pass our immune systems and corrupt our bodies. Although there has been a lot of developments to find ways to cure this illness, it remains pervasive.