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Medicine

Killing Cancer By Retraining the Patient's Immune System 175

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-can-get-'im-rock dept.
An anonymous reader writes "There's an interesting story on CNN about the University of Pennsylvania's human trial results on curing intractable cancer by retraining the patient's own immune system. Quoting: 'Nick Wilkins was diagnosed with leukemia when he was 4 years old, and when the cancer kept bouncing back, impervious to all the different treatments the doctors tried, his father sat him down for a talk. John Wilkins explained to Nick, who was by then 14, that doctors had tried chemotherapy, radiation, even a bone marrow transplant from his sister. ... A few months later, Nick traveled from his home in Virginia to Philadelphia to become a part of the experiment. This new therapy was decidedly different from the treatments he'd received before: Instead of attacking his cancer with poisons like chemotherapy and radiation, the Philadelphia doctors taught Nick's own immune cells to become more adept at killing the cancer. Two months later, he emerged cancer-free. It's been six months since Nick, now 15, received the personalized cell therapy, and doctors still can find no trace of leukemia in his system. ... Twenty-one other young people received the same treatment at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and 18 of them, like Nick, went into complete remission -- one of them has been disease-free for 20 months.'"
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Killing Cancer By Retraining the Patient's Immune System

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  • Cancer cured! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by transporter_ii (986545) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @09:35AM (#45632219) Homepage

    Cancer gets cured about once a decade, sometimes by real doctors, sometimes by "quacks." I could show stats from real doctors with similar results to this one, which never saw the light of day once it was discovered (or rediscovered).

    People don't actually like creativity, even in medicine:

    http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2013/12/creativity_is_rejected_teachers_and_bosses_don_t_value_out_of_the_box_thinking.html [slate.com]

    Staw says most people are risk-averse. He refers to them as satisfiers. “As much as we celebrate independence in Western cultures, there is an awful lot of pressure to conform,” he says. Satisfiers avoid stirring things up, even if it means forsaking the truth or rejecting a good idea.

    In medicine, innovative things happen all the time. When *you* go to the doctor, you get the same ol' thing that has been done since 1952.

  • Re:Cancer cured! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 08, 2013 @09:52AM (#45632279)

    Cancer gets cured about once a decade, sometimes by real doctors, sometimes by "quacks." I could show stats from real doctors with similar results to this one, which never saw the light of day once it was discovered (or rediscovered).

    People don't actually like creativity, even in medicine:

    http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2013/12/creativity_is_rejected_teachers_and_bosses_don_t_value_out_of_the_box_thinking.html [slate.com]

    Staw says most people are risk-averse. He refers to them as satisfiers. “As much as we celebrate independence in Western cultures, there is an awful lot of pressure to conform,” he says. Satisfiers avoid stirring things up, even if it means forsaking the truth or rejecting a good idea.

    In medicine, innovative things happen all the time. When *you* go to the doctor, you get the same ol' thing that has been done since 1952.

    Let's not dance around the real reason shit hasn't changed since 1952.

    Cures are not perpetually profitable. Only treatments are.

    Cures are never welcome in the industry, and if you run across one, I promise you that no insurance company will ever cover it, leaving most with the only option of death, since they don't have $500,000+ lying around.

    As far as how Obamacare will treat it, cures will be classified as first-degree felonies. You will abide by the party line and continue to obtain perpetual treatments so the vacuum can continue to suck the life out of you and your bank account, and keep you alive just long enough to empty both.

    Laugh now. You'll be crying later.

  • Re:Cancer cured! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by camperdave (969942) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @10:21AM (#45632439) Journal
    Ridiculous. All one pharmaco has to do is say "We've got the cure!" and everyone will come to them, cash in hand. Perpetual treatments require two things that companies are not good at:
    - giving up short term gains for long term gains.
    - cooperating.
  • Re:Cancer cured! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jiriki (119865) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @10:23AM (#45632455) Homepage

    In medicine, innovative things happen all the time. When *you* go to the doctor, you get the same ol' thing that has been done since 1952.

    That is just wrong. If you look at breast cancer 10-year survival rates (Figure 3.4): http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-info/cancerstats/types/breast/survival/ [cancerresearchuk.org]

    They have come up from 41% in 1970 to 77% in 2007. While cancer is not cured, survival rates are a lot better.

    When talking to the doctor three years ago, when my girlfriend had a breast-cancer operation, they had the latest studies and decided for a treatment based on them. The doctor only worked 4 days a week and took 1 day "off" to keep up with current research.

    The chemicals used for chemo-therapie are updated all the time and also genetical fingerprinting of the tumor cells is used to decide which treatment makes sense. So there are lots of differences even compared to the treatment 10 years ago.

  • Re:Cancer cured! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 08, 2013 @10:32AM (#45632485)

    Hate to break it up to you, but not all countries use a for-profit system for health coverage.

    In many countries, like mine for example, health-care costs come out of the pockets of governments.

    In other words, if those cures work, it might not be in the interests of the american, for-profit system to use them, but it would be in the interests of the countries where health-care is run in a sensible manne to use them.

    Which is the best illustration of why health insurance should never be run for profit, and should be run as a public service the same way fire department and the police are.

    If your comment about Obamacare is any indicator of your political affiliation and opinion on private health insurance, your comment shoots your opinion in the foot.

  • Re:Cancer cured! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DrXym (126579) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @10:40AM (#45632533)

    Cures are not perpetually profitable. Only treatments are.

    Well that's a particularly cretinous argument. Purely from a profit perspective which is better for doctors, hospitals, "big pharma" and insurers - a dead kid or someone who is cured and goes on to live another 70 years, requiring all kinds of medical interventions during that time not just for himself but for any children he may have?

  • Re: Cancer cured! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JWW (79176) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @11:02AM (#45632625)

    In the long run what will make the drug companies more money. Drugs that treat the patient for a few months and then they die, or a working treatment that the patient has to receive over their entire (longer now) life?

    A cure for cancer would be a gold mine for a pharmaceutical company.

  • Re:Cancer cured! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mark-t (151149) <[markt] [at] [lynx.bc.ca]> on Sunday December 08, 2013 @11:18AM (#45632703) Journal

    Cures are never welcome in the industry

    That would be false.

    First of all, the industry has cured many diseases. It just happens to be the case that no significant additions have been made to the list of fully curable diseases for several decades.

    At most, this might suggest to the layman that current trends seem to indicate that the current health industry may no longer be interested in curing diseases, but in practice, to actually adopt the premise as genuinely true requires conspiracy theories which are not logically sustainable in a rational debate, and most notably fails to consider the possibility that actually curing diseases could be a really hard thing to do and may not be something that can be reasonably expected to happen regularly in the absence of any breakthroughs happening, which are not something that can generally be anticipated beforehand anyways.

  • Re: Cancer cured! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 08, 2013 @12:17PM (#45633109)

    Excuse me, but if researchers find a way to transform cancer from near-death sentence into a condition that people and their doctors can manage for decades, much as they do many other medical conditions today, then that's close enough to a "cure" as any of us could reasonably hope for. Or is that too difficult a concept for the average person on this myopia-infested site to handle?

    I lost both of my parents to cancer, my father when I was 12 and my mother when I was 22, plus other loved ones. I cannot put into words how much I would love to see cancer downgraded from threat to annoying, long-term condition like this.

  • Re:Cancer cured! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Courageous (228506) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @02:33PM (#45633697)

    You're letting your imagination get away from you. If you are an insurance company, and a patient presents to you with a potential in $500K+ in medical expenses, you'd want to unbook that risk as quickly and as affordably as possible.

  • by tibit (1762298) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @05:01PM (#45634419)

    I would say this: as long as this therapy, even if it were to have serious side effects, simply lowers the mortality rate by, say, a factor of 2, it's a win. There is nothing else out there that, at the moment of introduction, would lower cancer mortality by such a factor, AFAIK. So far, presumably, most of the patients who received the therapy in this limited trial would have been dead by now. That's way, way over a 2x decrease in mortality. As far as I'm concerned, this is an unqualified success. Even if those patients turned into zombies 1 year from now, it'd still be a success, for crying out loud. There is nothing at this point in cancer therapy history that's this good, nor has there been anything that was that good on human subjects so quickly after the initial trials, IIRC. Feel free to correct me, of course.

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