The New York Times recently reported on an infant girl living in London who has gone into remission of a particularly aggressive form of leukemia using a new cell therapy developed by a French biotechnology company called Cellectis. The therapy involved genetically editing a T cell to create a kind of smart bomb to attack the cancer. This kind of therapy has been accomplished before but has proven to be time consuming and expensive. The cancer patient’s T cells have to be extracted, shipped to a lab, altered, and then sent back to be injected into the patient.
The French technique is different. The altered T-cells can be extracted from any donor, stored in a freezer, and then injected as needed. Cellectis accomplished this feat by using a precise genetic editing technology that is described as similar as editing a word in a document. Genes were altered so that the body’s immune system would not attack the T cells as “foreign” once they were injected.
The treatment was so successful that the baby girl was judged to be free of leukemia by her first birthday.
The more personalized and thus more expensive cancer treatments are farther along and have yielded great success. They should be available in a clinical setting within the next couple of years. The Cellectis therapy only deals with one form of leukemia and will not even enter clinical trials until 2016. Nevertheless, the fight against cancer will shortly acquire some powerful weapons that will help patients to live who might otherwise die of the deadly disease.
For more information contact us.