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A New Attack

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Melanoma is usually treated with surgery and chemotherapy. But in a new study published in Science Translational Medicine, researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute are trying something less harsh: using the body's own immune system to fight the disease, says Technology Review's Karen Weintraub. The researchers harvested immune cells from nine patients, altered the cells in the lab by giving them the ability to "remember" cancer cells, multiplied them, and reinfused them back into the patients they had been taken from, Weintraub says. The technique, called "adoptive T-cell therapy," charges the immune system with a search-and-destroy mission for cancer cells throughout the body, she adds. Ten weeks after therapy, seven of the patients had more T cells than they started with, disease in four of the patients had stabilized, and one patient's cancer disappeared completely and hasn't returned in two years. The work still has to be perfected and made more efficient, and more clinical trials are needed before the work can be commercialized, the researchers say, but this study shows that T-cell therapy can be effective, and could even be combined with other drugs to treat melanoma.

The Scan

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