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Genetically Engineered Immune Cells Highly Effective in Lymphoma

Genetically engineered immune cells taken from a patient and then re-infused are highly effective in treating lymphoma that has stopped responding to prior therapies. These results were recently presented at the 2013 annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology. Lymphoma is a type of cancer that originates in the immune cells. There are several different types of lymphoma, depending upon the immune cells affected as well as cancer characteristics. Chemotherapy remains a common type of treatment for several different types of lymphoma. Once cancer stops responding to standard therapies, it is referred to as refractory.

Scientists have been exploring ways in which to utilize a patient’s own immune system to help fight cancer, particularly after standard therapies prove to be ineffective. One way in which researchers have been trying to stimulate the patient’s own immune system is by collecting specific immune cells from the patient’s blood, genetically engineering them outside the body in ways which aid the immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells, then re-infuse them back into the patient.

The immune cells are engineered to express a certain protein that is found on the cancerous cells, referred to as CD19. The immune system recognizes CD19 from the modified cells as “foreign”, and attacks the cancer cells.

Researchers from the United States recently conducted a clinical trial that included 14 patients with either primary mediastinal B-cell lymphoma (PMBCL) or diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLCL). Patients had stopped responding to chemotherapy.

5 patients achieved a complete disappearance of their cancer
6 patients achieved a partial regression of their cancer.
This novel type of therapy, utilizing genetic engineered immune cells, has recently been gaining momentum in the treatment of lymphomas and leukemias. Although not yet approved by the FDA, results are demonstrating that this approach appears highly effective among patients not responding to standard therapies.

Reference: Kochenderfer J, Dudley M, Kassim S, et al. Effective Treatment Of Chemotherapy-Refractory Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma With Autologous T Cells Genetically-Engineered To Express An Anti-CD19 Chimeric Antigen Receptor. Proceedings from the 2013 annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology (ASH). Abstract #168.