Gene therapy works!Follow up for 10 years…Blood cancer patient recovered


In 2010, doctors used experimental gene therapy to convert blood cells from leukemia patient Doug Olson’s blood to kill cancer cells. He is now cancer-free.A group of doctors at the University of Pennsylvania say the same method helped cure another patient.This is the first time a gene therapy study has been followed over a 10-year period.’I’m doing great,’ says the 75-year-old, who lives in Pleasanton, Calif. ‘I’m still going strong. I was still running half horses until 2018.’They said I was cured, which is not a word doctors say easily.”Olson’s doctors reported two cancer-free cases in the journal Nature on Tuesday.The treatment used to treat Olson and the other patient is called CAR T cell (Chimeric ANTIGEN receptor therapy), which attacks cancer cells immediately from the beginning and remains in the body for years, evolving into anticancer cells.Known as “living drugs”, they are taken by thousands of people around the world to treat certain forms of blood cancer.Carl June, one of the authors of the study, said that based on 10 years of observation, “we can say that this immunotherapy really can cure patients with blood cancer.”The treatment involves extracting a patient’s T cells, the white blood cells critical to the immune system, and genetically altering them in the lab so that they can find and attack cancer cells on their own.The genetically altered T cells are then injected back into the patient using a drip.Olson, who was diagnosed with chronic lymphatic blood cancer in 1996 and thought his days were numbered, had been battling blood cancer for years, including chemotherapy, when he began the vaccination program.At one point, Dr. David Porter thought Mr. Olson might need a bone-marrow transplant and suggested he consider trying carT-T immunotherapy.Olson, who runs a laboratory-equipment company, was excited because he wanted to avoid the transplant.Two weeks after receiving immunotherapy, he was very unwell for a week and was hospitalized for three days.A week after he left the hospital, doctors told him, “We don’t have a single cancer cell in your body.”Another patient, Bill Ludwig, a retired prison officer, was in a similar situation.In both patients, the genetically engineered cells over time became “helper” cells, working hand in hand with cancer-killing cells against cancer cells, and eventually became “master” cells in their bodies, the researchers said.

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