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Man’s Melanoma in Remission With Emerging Cancer Therapy

Posted by Jane Akre
Thursday, June 19, 2008 12:32 PM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: FDA and Prescription Drugs, Cancer, Immunotherapy, Melanoma

man's melanoma disappears after immunotherapy. 



IMAGE SOURCE: WikiMedia Commons/ melanoma on skin/ author: U.S. govt.


Patient Number Four is making the news today.

The unnamed patient took part in an experimental treatment for melanoma at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. Patient Four went into complete remission after receiving an infusion of his own cloned T cells. 

The procedure is called immunotherapy and it fortifies the patient’s own immune system to fight cancer.  

In this case the type of cells are CD4 + T cells, specialized white blood cells that play an important part in helping the body fight disease.  CD4 cells are helper cells that initiate the body’s response to invading organisms.

Patient Four had advanced melanoma that had spread to a lung and lymph node in his groin.  He was followed for two years and remained in remission.

Even without intervention from immunotherapy, a patient’s own immune system can be supercharged to fight cancer. Dr. Vijay Trisal, of City of Hope Cancer Center in Durarte, California, tells U.S. News & World Report of two instances.

In one, a woman suffering from melanoma that had spread, was stung by a bee and recovered from cancer.

In another instance, a man with advanced melanoma got poison ivy. He not only recovered from the poison ivy, but also from the melanoma.

"Maybe there were 10 cells in the body that were very good, sort of a smart bomb against the melanoma, but they weren't enough," Trisal explained. "The bee sting or poison ivy multiplied these smart bombs one thousand times so suddenly this army of 10 became an army of a billion."

In Patient Four, the 52-year-old man received T cells from nine melanoma patients. Researchers isolated the cancer fighting cells that they believed would go after a protein on the tumor. Then they cloned these CD4 + T cells, grew five billion of them, then re-introduced them back into Patient Four where they stayed for 80 days.   I

In two months, his melanoma was gone.

"The results of this study are truly dramatic," Dr. Darrell Rigel, past president of the American Academy of Dermatology, tells ABC News. "This is the first time we've ever seen a melanoma melt away like this in someone with advanced disease."

In all, five patients received this therapy. The first three had a lower dose and no response. While Patient Five saw some response, but less than Patient Four.  

Whether he had a pre-existing low-level response, or his tumor was unusually receptive is unknown.  Researchers now do not know the wherabouts of Patient Four.

The therapy now needs to be standardized so it can be useful to many.

The study is published in the New England Journal of Medicine. 

The American Cancer Society believes immunotherapy is likely the area from which future advances against cancer will be found.

Every year an estimated 62,000 Americans are diagnosed with melanoma, which unless caught early, is incurable.

It generally starts out on the body as a tiny mole that is irregular in shape and size, and grows under the skin, where it spreads cancer into the body. #

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