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ABC Aired Science Report on New Cancer Therapy
Science journalists got a preview of an experimental cancer therapy at a joint press event held by the journal Science and the American Medical Association on Thursday, 19 September, in Washington, D.C. The therapy, published by the AAAS weekly journal Science as a part of the Science Express web site for 19 September 2002 used cancer fighting cells to shrink tumors in several seriously ill individuals with melanoma.
Further news on this research aired on the ABC news magazine "20/20" on Friday, 20 September, at 10:00 p.m. ET. The research also was described Thursday on ABC's World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, in a segment by Dr. Tim Johnson. For more information, please visit: http://abcnews.go.com/sections/living/2020/ immuno_cancer_patient_2020_020920.html.
The new therapydescribed as experimental, but promisingtakes advantage of the immune system's ability to deliver a specially targeted assault on an unwanted invader, and helps boost that assault by multiplying the number of immune cells involved inside the patient's body. This approach may also work for treating other cancer types, study author Dr. Steven Rosenberg of the National Cancer Institute told the assembled reporters.
Rosenberg shared several CAT scans and other data that detailed the dramatic disappearance of tumors in six of the thirteen individuals receiving the experimental therapy. In one patient, a teenage boy on constant pain medication, the immunotherapy destroyed several volleyball-sized tumors completely.
The specially targeted anti-cancer cells in the treatment are naturally produced by the body's immune system to attack tumors, but these cells alone aren't usually a match for aggressive cancers, Rosenberg explained. In the past, researchers have tried to boost these cells' numbers by extracting some from patients, inducing them to multiply in culture, and then transferring the expanded population back into the patients. The cells generally failed to "stick," however and disappeared quickly after the transfer.
By suppressing the patients' immune systems to "make room" for the new cells, as physicians do during a tissue transplant, Rosenberg and his colleagues induced the transferred cells to remain and grow in the body and start killing the tumor cells.
"To be able to do something as complex as this in humans, where every human is different and every tumor is different, has been quite difficult," said Rosenberg.
Rosenberg told the reporters that he was especially pleased to publish these results in Science, as the research demonstrates an important scientific "proof of principle" about how the human immune system might be co-opted to fight many diseases.
He was cautious to remind the public that his research is still experimental, and available only to his patients at the National Cancer Institute. Further, he emphasized, it did not work on all subjects described in his Science paper. But, Katrina Kelner, Deputy Managing Editor for Life Sciences at Science, said the research shows promise for helping to alleviate human suffering in the future. Such research thus exemplifies the newly refined AAAS mission and goals for "Advancing science · Serving society," Kelner noted.
20 September 2002