Reporting in Science Translational Medicine, the investigators say they were able to take T cells from late-stage leukemia patients and modify them with genetic material, reengineering the immune cells to track down and kill B cells. A disabled viral vector was used to inject the genetic material to recognize the CD19 protein expressed on the surface of B cells.
Anywhere from 5 months to two years after the gene therapy, three of the 5 patients in the study are still alive. Two of the patients died–one from a blood clot–while the other relapsed. One of the sickest patients was free of the leukemia 8 days after he was treated, surprising everyone involved.
NYTimes gives a nice write-up here:
Cell Therapy Shows Promise for Acute Type of Leukemia
Hopefully we will surmount the nascent ethical questions around this technology and arrive somewhere where more lives, like that of the amazing instance above, can be saved.