A new treatment for leukaemia has revolutionised medical ideas, which could change modern treatments against cancers into safer and more effective cures.
For those of you who don’t know, leukaemia is a form of cancer that origins in the bone marrow and causes an excessive amount of a special type of white blood cell called B-cells.
This new possible cure targets T-cells, another form of white blood cells, whose main function is to produce phagocytes that ‘eat’ the harmful organisms that attack the body. What the researchers have been trying to do is to inject a harmless virus into the T-cells, which then changes its genes to target and destroy a unique molecule that is only found in the surface of B-cells. This way, the B-cells are destroyed, decreasing its numbers and therefore curing this disease.
Now, you may be asking: But won’t this mean that all the B-cells will be killed, weakening the immune system? Well, the answer is no. Not all of the T-cells will be changed genetically, and when those that have been die, they will be substituted naturally by the body to act as they have doing all their life. And the B-cells will also be produced again, though in a much more healthy quantity, as the leukaemia will have been totally cured.
It has been tried on humans already, which extremely positive results. In 5 patients, the leukaemia was cured altogether, 4 of tem in 8 weeks and 1 in only 8 days!
Unluckily, 2 of these 5 patients died, one from a blood clot and the other of a relapse.
However, with these generally encouraging results, a new test is being prepared with 50 patients this time, which will hopefully fully
demonstrate the beneficial consequences of this treatment and allow it to be used much more often.
But the potential of this treatment doesn’t stop at curing leukaemia. Other cancers, such as prostate cancer, could be cured, but instead of
targeting at one unique molecule, they would target at pairs of molecules. This has been tried in mice already and has shown surprisingly positive results.