22
Sep

New immunotherapy for leukemia shows promise in small clinical trial

‘Training’ immune cells boosts effectiveness in patients with AML

A new type of immunotherapy shows promise against cases of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) that recur after treatment or that never respond to therapy in the first place. A small clinical trial at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis provides evidence that the immune system’s “natural killer” cells can be dialed up in the laboratory, trained to recall that activation and then effectively unleashed to destroy cancer cells in some patients.

The findings are published Sept. 21 in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Responses to the treatment were observed in five of the nine patients that could be evaluated. Four patients achieved complete remission; there was no evidence of leukemia for at least one month after treatment. One patient achieved a partial remission, with some abnormal cells reappearing at the one-month mark. The remaining four patients did not respond to the therapy. The longest complete remission lasted about six months, according to the researchers. In contrast, the average life expectancy for patients with active AML that does not respond to therapy is about three months.

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