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New fight to beat cancer

23rd September 2007

While some people have the ability to fight cancer better than others one of the great challenges has been how to harness this power and convert it into a tool to defeat cancer in those less able to fight their own cancers.

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In a groundbreaking step, researcher Zheng Cui from Wake Forest University of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and his colleagues have received permission from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to screen people for their ability to ward off cancer.

Immune cells from the best cancer fighters will be given to cancer patients, after being matched for blood type, in human trials next summer in the US.

While everybody can fight cancer via NK cells which identify and kill tumour cells, Cui has discovered that a much larger population of immune cells called granulocytes can also kill cancer but the effectiveness varies from person to person.

Researchers noted the average cancer-killing ability appeared to be lower in adults over 50 and even lower in people with cancer. It also fell when people were stressed and from November to April.

Cui presented preliminary results at the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence meeting in Cambridge, England, suggesting it may be possible to transfer the ability to fight off cancer between people.

John Gribben, a cancer immunologist at Cancer Research UK’s experimental medicine centre at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London, warns there are risks with using live cells of a graft-versus-host disease, though Cui says he is working with the FDA to minimise this risk.

 

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