Living medicine: new immunotherapy against blood cancer


According to the cancer information service, approximately 11,500 people suffer from leukemia every year in Germany. There are over 900,000 worldwide. Frequently, blood cancer is detected only by a random diagnosis. Treatment of the disease depends on the form of leukemia.

In addition to a stem cell or bone market transplant, chemotherapy and radiation therapy play an important role here. However, further research is being carried out on possible therapeutic options for the different forms. Scientists from Canada reported that a new treatment of blood cancer could be possible thanks to avocados. The researchers had isolated a lipid of the avocado fruit and tested its use in the treatment of the particularly aggressive blood cancer AML( acute myelogenous leukemia) and achieved promising results. A news release from the news agency dpa now reports on novel immunotherapies, which are regarded as the hope for patients whose cancer does not respond to classic treatments.

Bei der Behandlung von Blutkrebs spielen Strahlen- beziehungsweise Chemotherapie eine wichtige Rolle. Doch man kann auch ein "lebendes Medikament" gegen Leukämie einsetzen. Ein neuer Therapieansatz nutzt Abwehrzellen des Immunsystems gegen den Krebs. (Bild: Alexander Raths/fotolia.com) Radiation and chemotherapy play an important role in the treatment of blood cancer. However, a "living drug" can also be used against leukemia. A new therapeutic approach uses defense cells of the immune system against cancer.(Picture: Alexander Raths / fotolia.com)

T cell therapy is currently being tested in the USA
As it is said, the immune system of the patient against the cancer is aligned. According to the figures, the costly procedures show some impressive success. However, not all patients can be helped. Furthermore, it is not yet possible to predict for sure whom immunotherapy really helps.

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The new treatment, the so-called T-cell therapy, is currently being tested in patients in the USA.The T helper cells were also used in practice in Great Britain. For example, doctors from London's Great Ormond Street Hospital( GOSH) reported last autumn about a little girl who was cured for the first time with a special cell therapy that had never been used before.

Cells are destined to destroy blood cancer within a few days
As the dpa report states, T-cells are used in immunotherapy to target malignant cells in patients with advanced leukemia."It has been known for some years that the therapy with T cells can be extremely efficient," explained Dirk Busch, immunologist at the Technical University of Munich and head of a research group for the development of cell therapeutics.

According to the physician, it is a "living drug".The T cells are therefore to detect the blood cancer and completely destroy within a few days. However, cancer cells develop defense strategies that make the T cells difficult to successfully attack them. One of these strategies, according to the agency report, is to make itself invisible to the T cells. This is where the T-cell therapy starts: the cells taken from the blood of the patient are genetically modified in the laboratory in such a way that they recognize and directly attack blood cancer cells."We equip the T cells with a weapon that is directed against surface traits on cancer cells," said Patrick Schmidt, cancer researcher at the National Center for Tumor Diseases in Heidelberg, Germanyalso works on such therapies. For this purpose, the immune cells receive an antibody-like protein molecule which binds to the cancer cells. Subsequently, the cells are multiplied in the laboratory and returned to the patient's blood stream. There they can attack the blood cancer specifically. As it is said, the therapy helps most patients in trials.

According to Busch, some are considered as cured. In a recent study published in the USA, 27 out of 29 leukemia patients after treatment with chemotherapy and cell therapy can no longer detect cancer cells in the bone marrow."These are fantastic results," said Busch, who was not involved in the investigation."Especially when one considers that these are so-called exhumed patients, for whom there was no hope."

Life-threatening organ damage can be a disaster for patients
However, intervention in the immune system is associated with risks. Thus, the immune cells can be directed against their own body and release large quantities of inflammatory agents. High fever and life-threatening organ damage can be the cause of the weakened patient. As Busch explained, however, the immune reaction usually stopped by itself or could be treated well. In addition, patients have to inject antibodies to protect themselves against infection. This is because the T cells destroy both diseased and healthy B cells, which are also an important part of the defense system. In general, however, T-cell therapy is still present in the children's shoes."First clinical trials have been approved in Germany," said the President of the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut,( PEI) Klaus Cichutek. The institution is responsible for approving tests with biomedical medicinal products. Martina Schüßler-Lenz, the licensing expert, is assuming that the first application for authorization will be received by the European Medicines Agency at the beginning of 2017.(ad)

New therapy approach uses defense cells against blood cancer
Treatment of blood cancer is often used for chemotherapy or radiation therapy. According to health experts, however, a "living drug" can also be used against leukemia. Doctors report on a new therapeutic approach that uses cells of the immune system to treat blood cancer.

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