Melanoma, one of the most common cancers, is usually treated with surgery and aggressive chemotherapy. In a new, preliminary study, Dr. Marcus O. Butler, of Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, suggests a kinder, gentler way of treating melanoma, and perhaps other cancers, using the body’s own defense system.
In a study published in the April 27 edition of Science Translational Medicine, Butler and his colleagues harvested immune cells from nine patients. They souped up the cells in their lab—in effect giving them the ability to remember cancer cells—multiplied them in number, and infused them back into the patients from whom they been taken. This technique, called adoptive t-cell therapy, primes the immune system to seek out and destroy cancer cells throughout the body.
Arming the immune system: The black spots in this PET scan (left) indicate melanoma spread throughout a patient’s chest cavity. Seventy-four days after treatment with adoptive t-cell therapy, the cancer was gone, and it has not returned. Credit: Butler et al., Science Translational Medicine