A new study shows there could be another treatment for patients with a fatal form of leukemia when chemotherapy is not working.
Researchers are using cell therapy to fight the cancer and it is fighting it fast, putting severely ill patients into remission in just a matter of days.
It's a treatment that has doctors shocked, even double-checking their lab work to make sure they haven't made a mistake.
"This is pretty incredible, using a patient's own immune system to fight cancer," said ABC News Chief Health and Medical Editor, Dr. Richard Besser. "They had five patients with untreatable cancer. They used a virus to inject genetic material into a patient's own white cells to turn them into cancer fighters. Those then went out into the body and destroyed all the cancer cells. These patients they all went into remission."
David Aponte, 58, tried chemotherapy and relapsed, so he joined the T-cell study.
Eight days later, his leukemia was gone.
Doctor Renier Brentjens is Aponte's oncologist and actually started the lab work behind this clinical study 14 years ago.
"We write this up that this should work and it works in mice. We were shocked in the sense that it went so quickly and the results were so definitive," Dr. Brentjens explained.
Chemotherapy had also failed 7-year-old Emma Whitehead.
"She was the first patient with this kind of chemotherapy to have this. She is in total remission, is doing great," said Dr. Besser.
William Hyman is the Assistant Professor of Medicine in Oncology at the UT Health Science Center in Tyler. He said like those in the study, he too has patients who are losing their battle with leukemia and chemotherapy is not working.
"You have to be able to travel to these few centers around the country that have these studies open and the patient I saw just about a week ago, I'm going to contact and see if he's interested in traveling, but he probably does not have the means to be able to go cross country. He's just that sick," Dr. Hyman explained.
Doctor Brentjens would like for this to be available at more centers, but that is going to take funding, funding his team is trying to raise right now.
They also hope to develop similar technologies targeting other cancers.
It is the success he has worked diligently for years to see.
"This is why we do what we do. Many cancer researchers go through their entire careers without ever getting to this pinnacle," Dr. Brentjens said.
And for the patient? This provides a new glimmer of hope.
If you would like to see if you are eligible for this clinical study, you can contact the clinic by clicking here.
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