Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Immune System Fights Cancer

Immune System Fights Cancer
We all know that most cancers are incurable and can spread rapidly throughout our body but there may be hope in reducing and possibly curing cancers, in particular leukaemia. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have engineered pathogen fighting T-cells to seek out a protein found on the surface of cancerous leukaemia cells (Deena Beasley, 2011).  It is hoped that this preliminary research brings an end to leukaemia suffering patients. 

 The cause of Leukaemia, in particular chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) is not known but it is a very destructive form of cancer. Leukaemia occurs in the white blood cell and CLL specifically occurs in white blood cells called lymphocytes. White blood cells are a crucial component of the immune system and help our bodies to fight off infection such as viruses. During Leukaemia, the bone marrow rapidly produces a large number of abnormal lymphocytes which are defective (Cleveland Clinic, 2012).  Abnormal lymphocytes cannot fight off foreign material and usually collect in organs such as the spleen and lymphatic glands.  

 Researchers in the past have used a method called Adoptive T-cell transfer to remove abnormal lymphocytes but the results were imperfect. Adoptive T-cell transfer uses a type of white blood called a T-cell. Healthy T-cells are removed from the patient and treated with an antigen receptor called CD19 (Daniel J. DeNoon, 2010). The CD19 antigen allowed T-cells to eradicate cancerous cells but only in test tubes as the cells did not live long enough in humans and posed a toxic threat to healthy cells (Deena Beasley, 2011). 

A recent discovery of a signalling molecule has prolonged the life of the modified T-cells and has allowed for testing on patients, a molecule called 4-1BB. The molecules allow T-cells to have a more potent reaction to tumour activity and vitally ensures T-cell replication (Deena Beasley, 2011). Small infusions of modified T-cells resulted in two pounds of tumour cells destroyed per patient (Deena Beasley, 2011). Although the results are convincing, adoptive T-cell transfer will take years to become a permanent form of treatment for leukaemia suffering patients. 

Joel Kumar
Tutor: Laura Grice P9

Cleveland Clinic, 2012, Leukaemia, Viewed 17 March 2012
Daniel J. DeNoon, 2010,  Gene Therapy Cures Adult Leukemia, viewed 17 March 2012
Deena Beasley, 2011, Gene Therapy Shown to Destroy Leukaemia Tumours, Viewed 17 March 2012
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2012, White Blood Cell, Viewed 17 March 2012
The Associated Press, 2011, Gene Therapy Leukaemia Treatment Successful, Viewed 17 March 2012
Wikipedia, 2012, White Blood Cell, Viewed 17 March 2012

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