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Friday 28th October 2016

Skin cancer 'cure'

23rd June 2008

A 52 year-old man is believed to have been cured of advanced skin cancer after being treated with his own, cloned cells.


Scientists in the United States say the man is still free of his melanoma two years after being treated with his own cancer-fighting immune cells.

Researchers made copies of the cells and put them back into his body.

Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, a research team at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle said they concentrated on a particular type of immune system cell, because the body's immune system is known to play a significant role in the battle against cancer.

Doctors have been looking for ways to boost the body's ability to kill tumours, and the Seattle-based team said they selected immune cells called CD4+ T cells which had already been primed to attack a chemical found on the surface of melanoma cells.

They made billions of them in the laboratory through cloning, and injected them back into him.

The man, who had advanced melanoma which had spread to the lungs and lymph nodes, was free of tumours two months later. Two years on, he remains disease-free.

However, the new treatment only works for patients with a specific type of immune system and a particular type of tumour, researchers said.

Research team leader Cassian Yee said that while this patient was treated successfully, a larger study would still be needed to confirm the effectiveness of the this therapy.

Experts welcomed the development as having a potentially wide application. While the study had focused on a melanoma patient, other types of cancer might also benefit from similar research.

Imperial College cancer expert Karol Sikora said it might soon be possible to harness the power of the immune system, giving doctors the ability to control, or suppress, cancer, without necessarily curing it.

A Cancer Research UK spokesman said the study was another interesting demonstration of the power of the immune system to fight cancer.

The principle that a patient's immune cells could be expanded and made to work in such a way was encouraging for the field of cancer research generally.

But he said the technique was complex and difficult to use for all but a few patients, calling for more research to support the findings of the Seattle team.


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