Gene Therapy Successfully Treats Advanced Melanoma

Technique may have applications for treatment of other cancers

TUESDAY, Sept. 5 (HealthDay News) -- For the first time, gene therapy has been successfully used to treat advanced melanoma, according to a study in the Aug. 31 online edition of Science.

Identifying tumor reactive lymphocytes has so far proven difficult, and to overcome this, Steven A. Rosenberg, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., took normal lymphocytes from 17 patients with advanced melanoma and used adoptive cell transfer to genetically engineer them to recognize and attack cancer cells.

In three patients, there was no delay on progression of the cancer, but two other groups were able to benefit from refinements made to the treatment during the course of the study. One month after therapy, the other 14 patients still had between 9 percent and 56 percent of their T-cell receptors, and a year after infusion the investigators observed high levels of circulating, engineered cells in two patients, who both experienced cancer regression.

"We are currently treating advanced melanoma patients using adoptive transfer of genetically altered lymphocytes, and we have now expressed other lymphocyte receptors that recognize breast, lung and other cancers," said Rosenberg in a statement.

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