Facebook Pixel

Breakthrough With T-Cell Therapy For Leukemia Patients

Rate This

Findings from research conducted by Abramson Cancer Center (University of Pennsylvania) and Perelman School of Medicine have given hope to the medical fraternity in how they may be able to manage the treatment of leukemia patients by adding to their treatment options.

The research which has spanned across two decades has shown that a group of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia patients whose disease had progressed to the advanced stages showed sustained improvement in their condition when they were treated with genetically engineered versions of their own T-cells. (1)

This brings us to what T-cells are? T-cells are a type of white blood cells (WBCs) called the lymphocytes. Lymphocytes could be B cells (bone cells) or T-cells (thymus cells).

The T-cells are said to be responsible for giving the body its immune response without the bringing in of antibodies. The defence or immune response is provided through activation of natural killer cells among others, which release various cytokines to destroy the antigen that it encounters in the body.

So what does this new procedural protocol involve? In the study, the researchers removed patient’s T-cells. They then re-programmed these T-cells to attack the tumor cells present in the patient.

Re-programming of the T-Cells was done through adding of a lentivirus vector on the T cells. (Note: Lentiviral vectors are a type of virus that can infect both dividing and non-dividing cells because their virus “shell” can get through the intact membrane of the nucleus of the target cell. Lentiviruses can change the expression of their target cell's gene for up to six months.)

This vector then proceeds to encode a protein called Chimeric Antigen Receptor or CAR which is expressed on the surface of the T-cells and binds to another protein called the CD19. It has been observed during the research that once the T-cells begin to express the CAR, they kill only those cells that express the CD19 protein, which includes chronic lymphocytic leukemia tumor cells and the normal B-cells. (2)

The other good thing about this protocol is summarised by Carl June, MD himself. “We saw at least a 1000-fold increase in the number of modified T-cells in each of the patients. Drugs don't do that. In addition to an extensive capacity for self-replication, the infused T cells are serial killers. On average, each infused T-cell led to the killing of thousands of tumour cells -- and overall, destroyed at least two pounds of tumour in each patient."

The phenomenon occurs due to the fact that the research team had made a built-in signalling molecule into the part of the CAR which is placed inside the cell. When the process of binding to the CD19 protein begins (and thereby the process of cancer-cell death), it also signals the cell to produce cytokines that trigger other T-cells to multiply rapidly to have a larger number of similar killer T-cells until all the target cells in the tumour are destroyed.

The complete research report may be read at Science Translational Medicine, 10th August 2011: http://stm.sciencemag.org/content/3/95/95ra73.full


1. Genetically Modified 'Serial Killer' T-Cells Obliterate Tumors in Leukemia Patients; Science Daily News; October, 2011; http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110810141248.htm

2. Genetically Modified "Serial Killer" T Cells Obliterate Tumors in Patients with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia, Penn Researchers Report; October, 2011; URL: http://www.uphs.upenn.edu/news/News_Releases/2011/08/t-cells/


Mamta Singh is a published author of the books

Migraines for the Informed Woman – Tips From A Sufferer: ISBN: 978-81-291-1517-1
(Publisher: Rupa & Co. URL: http://www.amazon.com/Migraines-Informed-Woman-Tips-Sufferer/dp/8129115174/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1298990756&sr=1-2)

Mentor Your Mind – Tested Mantras For The Busy Woman: ISBN: 978-81-207-5973-2
(Publisher: Sterling Publishers; URL: http://www.sterlingpublishers.com/search_result.asp)

and the upcoming

The Urban Woman’s Integrated Fitness Guide
(Publisher: Hay House India).

She is also a seasoned business, creative and academic writer. She is a certified fitness instructor, personal trainer & sports nutritionist through IFA, Florida USA. Mamta is an NCFE-certified Holistic Health Therapist SAC Dip U.K. She is the lead writer and holds Expert Author status in many well-received health, fitness and nutrition sites.

She runs her own popular blogs on migraines in women and holistic health. Mamta holds a double Master's Degree in Commerce and Business. She is a registered practitioner with the UN recognised Art of Living Foundation. Please visit www.mamtasingh.com

Reviewed October 27, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

Add a CommentComments

There are no comments yet. Be the first one and get the conversation started!

Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.



Get Email Updates

Related Checklists

Leukemia Guide


Have a question? We're here to help. Ask the Community.


Health Newsletter

Receive the latest and greatest in women's health and wellness from EmpowHER - for free!