Genetically modified super immune cells – new treatment to fight cancer

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genetic engineeringA new procedure called genome editing has been successfully carried out at Great Ormond Street Hospital.The genome of a batch of donated T cells [immune cells] was altered so that T-cells were modified to seek out and destroy the abnormal leukaemia cells, while also becoming resistant to the chemotherapy drugs.

One-year-old Layla Richards, developed leukaemia when she was five months old. Leukaemia is the commonest cancer in children. Most respond to chemotherapy. If they fail to respond patients go on to have high dose chemotherapy which destroys most of their own blood cells followed by a rescue bone marrow transplant. Layla failed to respond to chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant so her parents opted to try the experimental technique, previously only used in mice, called genome editing. The DNA inside donated T cells were modified.The T-cells were modified to be accepted by Layla’s immune system and to seek out and destroy the…

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Flipping the switch: The physiology of Cancer

The final few chapters of The Emperor of All Maladies faces the problem of understanding carcinogenesis – the initiation of cancer formation. Before the discovery of cancer-causing genes, scientists pondered the origins of cancer. Ideas ranging from black bile to viruses surfaced within the scientific community. The general consensus was that cancer was caused by an external factor, outside […]

How does chemotherapy actually work: Mustard, Platinum and Alkyl groups

There are two main forms of cancer treatments. The more traditional chemotherapeutic agents are cytotoxic, meaning that they kill rapidly proliferating cells. Newer drugs are referred to as targeted therapy, since they are able to discriminate between healthy cells and the mutated cells which form the tumor. Within each group, there are various forms that chemotherapeutic agents can take. […]

Every drug is a poison in disguise: Using mustard gas to treat cancer

“Every drug is a poison in disguise, every poison is a drug in disguise”. Opined by the 16th century physician Parcelsius, this is a quote which rings true in modern medicine. The book The Emperor of All Maladies narrates the history of cancer, from its beginnings with the proposed black bile through to modern times. Chemotherapy is a topic extensively […]