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Medicine Biotech Science

Programming Immune Cells To Treat Disease 32

MTorrice writes "Some biologists would like to train patients' own immune systems to treat diseases such as cancer and autoimmune disorders. They envision isolating a person's immune cells and then programming the cells to destroy tumors or to stop other parts of the immune system from attacking healthy tissue. Now a team of German researchers reports a method that traps immune cells in microscopic water droplets and exposes the cells to chemical signals that could teach them the difference between friend and foe (abstract). The droplets mimic the cellular environments in which immune cells typically trade information about what to attack."
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Programming Immune Cells To Treat Disease

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  • Immunology works... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @11:16PM (#43088243)

    I'm living proof that one's own cells can be used to fight diseases like, in my case, stage IV melanoma.

    A three centimeter melanoma tumor was resected from near my jaw last summer at NIH. It was sliced and diced and had the white blood cells within it (my natural white blood cells) that were trying to attack the cancerous melanoma cells in the tumor removed and put in a handful of petri dishes with some tumor tissue, bathed in a cytokine called IL-2. The batches that showed the best cellular expansion and tumor tissue attacking effect were then grown to a quantity of 130 billion white blood cells.

    Once my immune system was basically knocked out with strong chemotherapy (cytoxan and fluderabine) followed by total body irradiation (TBI), I was given my tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL) back for further expansion in my body. Coupled with several nasty doses of IL-2 (which does bad things to you), the new white blood cells (and some CD34+ stem cells that were taken out before the treatment) were given back to me to reboot my immune system.

    After a couple weeks in the hospital, my blood counts returned to normal levels and I returned home. Since that time, my tumors have been tracked and are declared to be "almost gone" by the doctors (that is, smaller than the resolution capabilities of CT scanning technology, or 1 mm). In fact, at this point, the doctors aren't sure whether it's still tumor tissue or scar tissue. Eight months post-treatment and my disease appears to be, for all intents and purposes, gone. Provided my supercharged, melanoma-fighting immune system persists, I may have a natural immunity to the melanoma that inflicted me.

    As this is a systemic and focused treatment, this process appears to work on patients independently of how advanced their disease has progressed. I've met patients who had tumors in their internal organs and even brain involvement for whom this has worked. I swear I wouldn't be writing this post today without the life-saving treatment that I received last fall. As with anything cancer-related, my state could change at any time, but, for me, "so far, so good" is good enough for me right here and now.

    I chose to participate in this particular trial because of the personal nature of the procedure: using my own immune system to attack my own disease.

    One more thing: Although some of the trials at NIH actually do genetic engineering on the white blood cells, attempting to improve their expansion behavior and activation, my specific trial did not.

  • by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @12:06AM (#43088667) Homepage Journal

    How dare you come in with an example of such a treatment actually working? Don't you know that this line of research is an offense to God and man which will inevitably lead to a hellish Gattasteinian future in which we're all mutant slaves of the Big Science / Big Pharma Conspiracy? Or something like that.

    Seriously, congratulations, and speaking as a researcher, thank you.

Honesty is for the most part less profitable than dishonesty. -- Plato