In a major breakthrough, doctors have taken a giant step towards the field of treating cancer by harnessing a person’s own immune system.
The doctors have found a new way for fighting cancer during the treatment of a 43-year-old woman who was suffering with an advanced and deadly type of cancer that had spread from her bile duct to her liver and lungs, despite chemotherapy.
Melinda Bachini, who is fighting against a rare cancer of the bile duct that runs from the liver to the intestines, decided to end her chemotherapy to treat her cholangiocarcinoma .
At that juncture, she’d undergone three rounds of chemotherapy but the outlook was grim.
“I knew if I was going to beat this, it would have to be with an experimental therapy,” said Bachini, a mother of six.
Bachini was diagnosed at the age of 41.
A group of researchers at the National Cancer Institute sequenced the genome of her cancer and identified cells from her immune system that attacked a specific mutation in the malignant cells. Then immune cells were grown in the laboratory and were infused back into her bloodstream.
The tumours began “melting away,” said senior study author Dr. Steven A. Rosenberg, who is also chief of the surgery branch at the cancer institute.
However, the woman is not cured but this has opened a new way for the medical science. While she was undergoing the new treatment, her tumours were shrinking, but not gone.
However, the experts say an experiment on one patient cannot be considered in long run for all cancer cases. However, they agree that the approach canalso be applied to common tumours like those in the digestive tract, ovaries, pancreas, lungs and breasts. These diseases cause more than 80% of the 580,000 cancer deaths in the United States every year.
The article was published on Thursday in the journal Science.