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Memory cells enhance strategy for fighting blood cancers

Subset of immune system cells shows promise for protecting against various disorders

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5:01pm, February 14, 2016
CAR-T therapy

TUMOR THERAPY  A new type of immune therapy with genetically engineered cells, called CAR-T cells, melted away a lymphoma tumor in a patient’s kidney (PET scans of the tumor shown before CAR-T cell therapy, left, and two months after treatment). Chemotherapy had previously failed to shrink the tumor.

WASHINGTON — Stem cells with memory may improve a powerful new type of cancer therapy.

Recently, scientists have engineered cells from a patient’s own immune system to fight blood cancers. The treatment with the engineered immune cells, called CAR-T cell therapy, may work even better if doctors transplant a subset of immune cells known as memory T cells, researchers reported February 14 at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting.

A single engineered memory T cell was enough to replenish the infection-fighting ability of mice lacking T cells, said Dirk Busch, an immunologist at the Technical University of Munich. That finding indicates that very low numbers of the cells in the body could be enough to protect human patients from maladies ranging from infections to cancer.

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