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New Cell Therapy for Relapsed Leukemia Patients

Published: 2017-11-20 |

Source: Stanford University Medical Center

A significant proportion of children and young adults with treatment-resistant B-cell leukemia who participated in a small study achieved remission with the help of a new form of gene therapy, according to researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine and the National Cancer Institute.

The study is similar to but not distinct from CD19-targeted chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy, or CAR T-cell therapy, in which patient's T-cells are genetically modified to target a molecule called CD19 on the surface of the cancer cells. This therapy was recently approved by the Food & Drug Administration for the treatment of some types of blood cancers.

The new therapy genetically modifies a patient's T-cells to target a different molecule called CD22. The new approach is helpful because the cancer cells of some patients who undergo CD19-targeted CAR T-cell therapy stop expressing the CD19 molecule on their cell surfaces.

"This is the first time that we've seen response rates anything like we achieved when we were first testing the CD19 CAR T therapy," said Crystal Mackall, MD, the associate director of Stanford's Cancer Institute and the director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at Stanford. "We were all a little worried that we wouldn't find anything comparable. But this study gives hope to the idea that there may be another similar, very potent treatment." Researchers hope that targeting CD19 and CD22 simultaneously may result in a powerful therapy---one that cancer cells are unable to evade.

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