Although genetically modifying cells in order to battle cancer isn’t a new idea, it’s usually more successful when battling blood cancers, including leukemia. “Hard cancers,” such as mesothelioma, have shown to be more impervious to genetically altered cells in the past. Yet, in a new study, scientists are learning that injecting the altered cells into the bloodstream and targeting mesothelioma tumors may prove to be successful as well.
According to researchers at New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, administering genetically altered white blood cells directly into a tumor area helped to not only eliminate the cancer but also continue to fight off renewing cancer. The study, which was published this week in Science Translational Medicine, was carried out by using human T cells on mice with tumors. Because of its success, experts state that testing on humans may come next, pending approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The approval may come as early as next year, per Dr. Prasad Adusumilli, a thoraic surgeon and lead researcher of the study.
Regardless of where mesothelioma develops, whether it be the abdomen, breasts, ovaries, or pancreas, the tumors tend to spread into the areas surrounding the lungs.
“For whatever reasons, cancers tend to go there and I wanted to target that,” said Dr. Adusumilli. “Surprisingly, what we found is the moment T cells go there, they see the enemy – the cancer cell – they activate themselves and they activate other T cells and they proliferate,” he continued.
However, side effects have been present in the past when using the modified cells. In fact, one patient passed away after from induced lung inflammation. Dr. Adusumilli theorizes that it might be possible to administer the modified cells via a chest catheter, instead of an intravenous injection, which could bypass the harsh side effects in the lungs.
Despite the side effects, the research has proven to be successful in treating children with leukemia. In fact, last month alone, a report indicates that 27 out of 30 patients at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia who have advanced stages of leukemia went into remission after being administered the modified T cells.
Modified Virus Cells Also Show Promise
In another study performed by researchers at Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, results have shown that a genetically-modified virus, the Newcastle disease virus (NDV) can also be reprogrammed to attack mesothelioma cells. The study, written by Yuman Fong, states that studies indicate that injecting the virus into test animals with mesothelioma tumors has proved to be positive.
Although NDV is a contagious bird disease, at least 65% of the animal test subjects experienced tumor suspension after the virus was injected into malignant pleural mesothelioma tumors. The virus was specifically altered so that it only targeted mesothelioma tumors, without harming any of the healthy, surrounding tissues.
Similar NDV studies have been carried out in Australia as well. If the results continue to be positive, the testing may move on to human trials of those who are currently diagnosed with mesothelioma.
For many years, the only available treatment options for mesothelioma have been surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, holistic and alternative medicine, and a diet enriched in high protein and vitamins. There is still no cure for the disease, and over 2,000 people are newly diagnosed each year. Researchers are hoping that with ongoing research and trials, that a cure for mesothelioma will soon be found.
Keep in mind that if you or a loved one were diagnosed with mesothelioma or any other asbestos-related illness, you may qualify for substantial compensation. Contact our experienced and dedicated mesothelioma attorneys today for a free, confidential case consultation.