Sunday, May 21, 2006

British Geneticists: "We'll Cure Cancer in Five Years"

Very good news from England.

Scientists in Manchester say a cure for all types of cancer could be available on the NHS within five years.

The world's first patient trials in a technique which genetically engineers cells will take place at the city's Christie Hospital later this year.

The treatment - gene-modified t-cell therapy - could replace more intrusive treatments like chemotherapy.

The cells are fitted with a "tracker" device to kill cancer cells before being injected back into the patient.

Professor Robert Hawkins, clinical director of Medical oncology at the hospital, says the initial results of lab tests have been "spectacular".

In the lab we have seen spectacular results in lung tumours and in the brain. It's remarkable
Professor Robert Hawkins

More traditional treatments like radiotherapy and chemotherapy destroy both healthy and cancerous cells.

The new system makes the body naturally seek out and kill tumours by boosting the infection-fighting t-cells.

The body does not naturally have enough of these cells to combat huge tumours, and cancer cells often develop protective mechanisms to avoid them being recognised by the body as a disease.

Doctors will take blood samples from cancer patients to extract t-cells. They then genetically modify the t-cells, attaching an antibody which works like a tracking device to enable the t-cells to zone in on cancer tumours.

The t-cells are then multiplied a thousand-fold over a two-week period and injected back into the patient's body.

Professor Hawkins is appealing for funds to build a lab to genetically engineer t-cells, so that the treatment can be available for patients that cancer drugs, chemotherapy and radiotherapy have already failed.

He said: "In the lab we have seen spectacular results in lung tumours and in the brain. It's remarkable.

"Given as an injection, it could get rid of a widespread range of tumours."

Very good news indeed, and more evidence that, as a friend of mine put it recently, "you need to remember that the most transformative invention of this century has not been invented yet."


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