TIME Cancer

Scientists Use Patient’s Immune System to Kick Cancer

Through a technique known as adopted cell therapy, doctors replicated a woman's own immune cells in the lab, then released them into her bloodstream. The tumors began melting away

Scientists are making strides in a new cancer treatment that manipulates patients’ immune systems into going to war with malignant growths. The therapy, which could apply to a wide range of cancers, offers a silver lining for patients who have been diagnosed with melanomas in the the lungs, bladder and gastrointestinal tract.

In a study recently published in Science by the National Cancer Institute, under the National Institutes of Health, doctors “sequenced the genome” of a 43-year-old woman named Melinda Bachini, who had been struggling with a type of cancer that had not responded to chemotherapy, the New York Times reported.

Through what is called “adopted cell therapy,” Dr. Steven A. Rosenberg and colleagues involved in authoring the study “identified cells from her immune system that attacked a specific mutation in the malignant cells. Then they grew those immune cells in the laboratory and infused billions of them back into her bloodstream,” said the Times.

Rosenberg told the Times that through the process, the tumors began “melting away.” He added, “It’s the first time we have been able to actually target a specific mutation in the immune system,” Rosenberg told NBC News.

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