Scientists at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, a Research!America member, have successfully treated a handful of leukemia patients with cutting-edge immune cell therapy. This therapy, similar to previous trials at the University of Pennsylvania and the National Cancer Institute, modifies the patient’s immune cells so that they recognize and kill the cancer cells. This experimental therapy provides a new avenue of treatment for patients who have undergone all of the traditional treatments like chemotherapy without achieving remission of the cancer. Read more about this exciting breakthrough in this New York Times article.
The study’s senior author, Michael Sadelain, MD, PhD, expressed his excitement over the results.
“We’re creating living drugs,” Sadelain said in the article. “It’s an exciting story that’s just beginning.”
This study, like so many other major breakthroughs in medicine, was made possible by funding from NCI. This particular immunotherapy has been in development and testing for more than a decade. Articles describing the foundational research for this month’s breakthrough cite financial support from the National Institutes of Health (Brentjens et al, Nature Medicine, March 2003) and the basic scientific principles used to safely modify human immune cells had to be well established before the 2003 experiments could begin. Investments in basic research are necessary to drive medical progress. It is hard to argue with the value of those investments when you read the stories of the patients whose lives were saved by this treatment.