Researchers at the US National Cancer Institute have reported in on an experimental breast cancer therapy that achieved remarkable results, rehabilitating Judy Perkins from the brink of death (she had been given two months to live, had tumors in her liver and throughout her body) to robust health two years later.
The therapy used the sequenced genome of the cancer to identify which elements of the cancer-cells might be "visible" to the patient's immune system; then the patient's white blood cells that were capable of targeting those traits were isolated and grown in vitro in huge numbers; finally, 90 billion of these cancer-targeting cells were injected back into the patient, along with drugs designed to "take the brakes off" the patient's immune system.
The team behind the therapy believe it may be applicable to other kinds of cancer.
These are the results from a single patient and much larger trials will be needed to confirm the findings.
The challenge so far in cancer immunotherapy is it tends to work spectacularly for some patients, but the majority do not benefit.
Dr Rosenberg added: "This is highly experimental and we're just learning how to do this, but potentially it is applicable to any cancer.
"At lot of works needs to be done, but the potential exists for a paradigm shift in cancer therapy - a unique drug for every cancer patient - it is very different to any other kind of treatment."
New approach to immunotherapy leads to complete response in breast cancer patient unresponsive to other treatments [US National Cancer Institute/NIH]
'Remarkable' therapy beats terminal breast cancer [James Gallagher/BBC]
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