For the first time, three cancer patients in the US have been treated with CRISPR gene editing technology. The study, revealed ahead of the American Hematology Association Conference, scheduled to take place next month said:
"The scientists extracted the immune cells from these patients' bodies, erased the three genes and added a gene to help them identify and attack the cancer cells. This immune army was later up to 100 million cells, for intravenous transfusion.
The cells continue to exist in the body of cancer patients safely without any observed complications. Scientists say the army of cells has since multiplied into ten to one hundred thousand since its inception. "
Tests within the next month will answer the question: Will these cells attack cancer cells, help extend the prognosis for patients?
Doctors infused 100 million gene-editing immune cells into their veins.
The study was conducted on three cancer patients, all over 60 years old. Two of them had multiple bone marrow tumors, a type of blood cancer and the third had sarcoma, a form of cancer that formed in connective or soft tissue.
Their illness has progressed so badly that all the traditional treatments such as surgery and radiation therapy have failed and are no longer working. Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania now suggest a new treatment method, using CRISPR .
CRISPR is known as the fastest, cheapest and most accurate gene editing technology. It allows scientists to change the letters of the genome's DNA, a power that can be used to do many things, from treating congenital diseases, cancers to creating complete organisms. completely new, even genetically modified people .
In their research, scientists at the University of Pennsylvania have aimed at modifying immune cells called T-cells , helping cancer patients to " supersize " their immune systems. an army against the disease.
To do that, they first had to draw the patient's blood, separate T cells and use CRISPR to erase the three genes on it. These are genes that inhibit the ability to identify cancer cells and have the risk of causing side effects on the body.
Then they continued to use the virus to implant a gene into these T cells, which they called the " warhead " gene. This gene will direct the cells to attack a target called NY-ESO-1 , which is a protein found on cancer cells but rarely occurs in normal cells.
The T cells that modify this gene are then multiplied into an immune army with 100 million cells. The doctor will transfer all these cells back to the patient's body intravenously. Once in the body, cells continue to live without being eliminated from the body. Moreover, they continue to multiply in the number from 10,000 to 100,000 times the original.
A T-cell immune cell is attacking cancer cells.
" This is the most complex cellular genetic technique ever made," said lead researcher Dr Edward Stadtmauer from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. " It is evidence that we can safely modify these cells' genes."
The research aims to test drug safety, so that only the living T cells, continuing to multiply in the patient's body without causing any complications, have been a success.
But scientists don't forget their main purpose: To answer the question, will they help patients fight cancer? Currently, after two to three months of testing, one patient's health is continuing to deteriorate, one has stabilized and the third patient has just been treated, so nothing can be said beforehand.
Dr. Stadtmauer said testing in the next month will allow him and his team to know whether the "super " transformed T cells help kill cancer cells? After that, it will continue to be conducted on 15 other patients.
Commenting on the research by Dr. Stadtmauer and colleagues, Dr. Aaron Gerds, a cancer specialist at Cleveland Clinic, said: " It is still very early, but I strongly encourage this study." .
There have been many cell therapies that have proven effective against blood cancer, becoming " a big push, curing diseases that were previously thought to be incurable , " and gene editing can help. improve these cell therapies, says Dr. Aaron Gerds.
Gene editing is a way to permanently alter DNA, attacking the root cause of cancer. CRISPR is a tool to cut DNA at a specific point. It has long been used in laboratories and is being tested on humans for patients.
It must be emphasized that this study is not aimed at altering the DNA in a person's body. Instead, it only seeks to eliminate, alter genes and return immune cells into the patient's body, hoping they will develop super powers to fight their cancer. It is actually a form of immunotherapy.
This treatment method has previously been tested by Chinese scientists on cancer patients since 2017. But this is the first such study done in the US as well as other countries around the world.
Will CRISPR, the most modern gene editing tool, help us get at the root of cancer?
One advantage that will help China lead the world in this area of therapy is the lax regulations governing gene editing in the country. It was this loophole that caused one of their scientists to create the world's first gene-editing girls last year.
Regarding new research in the US, scientists at the University of Pennsylvania have spent up to two years to obtain approval from regulatory agencies. The study was funded by the University of Pennsylvania, the Parker Cancer Institute in San Francisco and biotechnology company Tmunity Therapeutics.
It is expected that it will be officially reported to the American Hematology Conference which will take place next month.