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Another exciting advance in adoptive T-cell immunotherapy made news today thanks to publication of a study by researchers at Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) in the journal Science Translational Medicine. The new report extends the utility of the therapy to adult patients diagnoed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).


While LLS did not fund the research reported here, these findings add to the promising work in the area of adoptive T-cell immunotherapy that has been reported by LLS-funded Carl June, M.D. and his team at University of Pennsylvania (UPENN) and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The treatment approach uses patients’ own T cells, a type of white blood cell that normally fights viruses and bacterial infections. The patient’s T cells are removed from their body, and then a disabled virus is used as a “vector” to carry new genetic material into the T cells, programming them to recognize and kill any cell that carries a particular protein on its surface. In this case they target the CD19 protein, which is expressed on the surface of B-lymphocytes making it a good target for the T cells to attack. 


In this latest study, the five patients were adults with recurrent B-cell ALL. The adult patients in the UPENN study had chronic lymphocytic leukemia.  As with the UPENN work, the patients achieved remissions; however, in the MSKCC cases, the therapy was used as a bridge until the patients were well enough to undergo a stem cell transplant. The technique used at MSKCC involves a different viral vector and different genetic programming from the one at UPENN.


The news was widely reported today in media outlets including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal; LLS senior vice president of research Richard Winneker, Ph.D., is quoted in this HealthDay article providing perspective on the MSKCC study.


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