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Some T Cell Tweaks

CRISPR gene editing has been used as part of an immunotherapy treatment for three cancer patients in the US, with no apparent safety problems, according to a piece in The Washington Post picked up from the Associated Press.

Edward Stadtmauer and colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania reportedly focused on T immune cells in the blood of two individuals with multiple myeloma and one sarcoma patient, using CRISPR to knock out three genes and add in a new one in an effort to boost immune response to tumors.

"The doctors were able to take immune system cells from the patients' blood and alter them genetically to help them recognize and fight cancer, with minimal and manageable side effects," AP medical writer Marilynn Marchione reports.

It is still unclear whether the gene editing approach will impact those patients' survival outcomes, docs warned, though the team reportedly intends to take a crack at treating another 15 cancer patients with a similar approach. Results from the UPenn-, Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy-, and Tmunity Therapeutics-sponsored trial are set to be presented at the American Society of Hematology annual meeting next month. 

The National Institute of Health's Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee approved a CRISPR-based cancer immunotherapy trial at UPenn in 2016. At that time, the team presented a proposal that involved using a CRISPR-based T cell editing approach to treat multiple myeloma, melanoma, and sarcoma. CRISPR gene editing trials focused on esophageal cancer and other conditions have been underway for even longer.

"Scientists in China have been trying to use CRISPR to treat cancer patients for years but have released very little information about their work," Rob Stein writes for NPR's Shots health news section. "Another US study involving CRISPR for cancer recently started recruiting patients."