Doctors from China have made advancement in the fight against cancer by experimenting with a new type of treatment through editing of human genes.
The new treatment involves taking out T cells from a cancer patient’s own immune system, after which the cells are genetically altered by the gene-editing tool called CRISPR.
Using CRISPR, the scientists knocked out a gene in the T cells known as PD-1. This engineering feat modifies the T cells so that they zero in on and attack the cancer cells, once they’re infused back into each patient.
Shaorong Deng is one of the cancer patients currently being treated with gene editing at the Hangzhou Cancer Hospital, China.
Deng, 53, has advanced cancer of the esophagus. He had gone through radiation and chemotherapy, but the cancer kept spreading.
“I consider myself very lucky,” Deng told NPR.
“I feel very stable. I was weak in the limbs before and now I am not weak anymore.
“I can only hope it will completely — completely — get rid of the cancer.”
Shixiu Wu, president of the cancer hospital, says it’s still too early to conclude how effective the treatment will be, or what the full extent of side effects from it.
Deng is one of the 21 patients with advanced, incurable cancer of the esophagus that Wu has treated so far with CRISPR-edited T cells.
But Wu says about 40 percent of the patients appear to have responded, after which he said one patient is still alive almost a year later.
“There’s no randomized comparison group in this study. But usually, such patients would have no hope,” Wu said.
“If they have not received this treatment they will die — most of them will die in three to six months.
“As a cancer doctor, you see many deaths. So it’s good to be part of this.”
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