Monday, May 12, 2014

HEALTH - Using a Patient’s Own Natural Immune Defense Against Cancer

"New study looks at immunotherapy to treat common cancers" PBS NewsHour 5/11/2014


HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  There is important news in the fight against cancer.  A study this week says scientists have devised a new approach that represents the blueprint for making immunotherapy available to treat common cancers and to target what is unique about each person’s cancer.

For more, we are joined from Washington by Dr. Steven Rosenberg.  He is the chief of the surgery branch at the National Cancer Institute’s Center for Cancer Research and the senior author of the study.

Thanks so much for joining us.  So, in this experiment, the interesting thing is that there’s not any sort of miracle drug, you’ve found a way to supercharge a patient’s own immune systems to fight a cancer.  How did you do that?

STEVEN ROSENBERG:  This is a way to take advantage of the patient’s own natural immune defense against the cancer.  One of the major issues in all of cancer treatments is finding ways to attack the cancer without also attacking normal cells.  Cancer becomes a cancer because a normal cell accumulates in its DNA a large number of mutations.  That is, changes in the DNA sequence that results in new proteins.

In this paper, we’ve worked out a way to target the exact mutations that result from making a normal cell into a cancer cell.  And so in that sense it’s a very highly specific and highly unique treatment that has to be developed for each individual patient.

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