Patients' own immune cells used to fight cancer


by KING 5 HealthLink

Posted on August 15, 2013 at 2:27 PM

Updated Thursday, Aug 15 at 8:21 PM

What if the cure for cancer could be found in the body's own immune system with a little help from modern science? A new clinical trial is giving patients hope.

For Marty Melley, life is best on the go.

"I always said if this thing ever got me, it would be while I was moving, not while I'm standing still," he said.

"This thing" is multiple myeloma, a bone marrow cancer. Once diagnosed, patients have about three to five years. Melley found out after the birth of his first grandchild.

"I wanted to see him grow a little bit," he said.

After treatment, Marty went into remission, but the cancer came back. That’s when he enrolled in a new clinical trial.

“We’re actually taking the patient’s own immune cells, and we’re genetically modifying them,” said Dr. Aaron Rapoport at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center in Baltimore, Md.

That army of t-cells are then able to recognize and attack the cancer cells. The therapy is done with a stem cell transplant that helps rebuild the body’s blood system.

“Patients tolerate the infusion very well,” Dr. Rapoport said.

Initial results show that more than 80 percent of patients either went into a complete or near-complete remission. Now 11 years after what appeared to be his death sentence, Melley has two grandsons to share his wisdom with.

“When you want to do something, don’t wait until the golden years, 'cause sometimes your golden years, the gold is used to pay the doctor bills,” laughed Melley.

A final analysis of the study is expected to be completed by 2014. Participants are all in advanced stages of myeloma. There’s also a new trial in the works to see how using the genetically engineered t-cells alone will work without a stem cell transplant.