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Engineered immune cells boost leukemia survival for some

Patients with low disease load had best outcomes in first long-term look

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3:30pm, April 4, 2017
CAR-T cell attacking a leukemia cell

IMMUNE ATTACK  Doctors can engineer a patient’s own immune cells to kill cancer cells. These engineered cells, called CAR-T cells, were effective for some people against relapses of leukemia over the long term. Here, a CAR-T cell (red) attacks a leukemia cell (yellow).

WASHINGTON — Immune cells engineered to hunt and destroy cancer cells may help some people with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) live much longer.

Outcomes depended upon disease severity before treatment, oncologist Jae Park reported April 3 at the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting.

In ALL — expected to strike 5,970 people and kill 1,440 in the United States in 2017 — immune cells called B cells grow out of control in bone marrow and can spread to other tissues. Overall, five-year survival rates are 71 percent. But fewer than 10 percent of people survive for five years after a relapse of the cancer, said Park of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

Park and colleagues genetically engineered T cells from 51 people whose leukemia came back or who didn’t respond to initial chemotherapy. These CAR-T cells seek out and kill the rogue B cells.

Of 20 people who started the

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