New research reported today in the New England Journal of Medicine reveals that researchers have succeeded in using a patient's own immune system to destroy late-stage malignant tumor cells. The researchers, from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, say that this is the first time that immunotherapy has worked on its own, without assistance from drugs or chemotherapy.
The researchers used CD4+ infection-fighting blood T-cells from a patient and cloned them in vitro. Once they had about five billion of the cloned cells, the infused them back into the patient. Two months later, the patient's PET and CT scans revealed that the patient was tumor free. Two years later, he remained free of cancer.
Lead study author Cassian Yee says that the process has only been tried on a single patient so far. Another trial involving between 10 and 20 patients will begin soon and, if that test and subsequent trials are successful, this therapy could become a viable treatment option within five years.