Researchers have modified immune cells to enable them to target a specific type of blood cancer. These first experimental trials using cell therapy, have produced “extraordinary results” on patients who had prior few months to live, says the British newspaper The Guardian.

According to the study, 94 % of participants with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) saw their symptoms disappear completely. In patients who have other types of blood cancer, the response rate is greater than 80%, and half is in complete remission.

This announcement was made at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement for Science (AAAS). Speaking at the event, the researcher Stanley Riddell, of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, spoke about results “unprecedented. These are patients who failed at everything. Most of them had nothing but two to five months to live. ”

” A revolution “

to administer this treatment of T lymphocytes (or T cells), doctors took cells patient, marking them with “receptor” molecules that target a specific cancer. This kind of technique is already used with other cells, to target the flu or other infections. They were then given these cells “improved” in the patient’s body.

The researcher Chiara Bonini, hematologist at the University San Raffaele in Milan, was very optimistic. She confesses that he never saw similar rates of remission in clinical trials for 15 years. “It really is a revolution,” she said. “T cells are living a drug, and they have the distinction of staying in our body throughout our life.”

Long-term solution?

For now, the test target only certain blood cancers, and researchers agree that there is still work . We must also see how long patients will remain in remission.

“There are reasons for optimism and reasons for pessimism,” says Riddell. He added that the researchers believe that reducing the dose of T cells may reduce the risk of side effects. Indeed, cell therapy is often considered an option of last resort because reprogram the immune system can lead to dangerous side effects.

Riddell do not venture to say when work will pass the barrier of clinical trials but Bonini think they are “very close to a kind cell product “. It also hopes that alter the memory T cell will be able to make a long-term defense against cancer.