Thursday 17 January 2019

Turbocharged breast cancer 'cure' provides fresh hope for patients

This is the first time the technique has been tried on someone with breast cancer. Stock Image: PA
This is the first time the technique has been tried on someone with breast cancer. Stock Image: PA

Henry Bodkin

A woman with advanced breast cancer has been "cured" by an injection harvested from her own immune system in what scientists have described as an "extremely promising" world first.

Judy Perkins (52), a mother of two, was given months to live after seven types of chemotherapy failed and she had developed tumours the size of fists in her liver. She had undergone a mastectomy in 2003 after the cancer was first diagnosed, but it returned in 2013 and spread aggressively. There is no known cure for breast cancer which has spread so widely.

But Ms Perkins, an engineer from Florida, has been cancer-free for two years and leads an active life.

Using a technique called "adoptive cell transfer", scientists removed a tumour from her chest and determined which friendly immune cells within it were capable of recognising the harmful cancer cells. Over eight weeks, the team at the US's National Cancer Institute harvested and grew the cells in the lab into an army of 82 billion, then injected them back into the patient, turbocharging her immune system against the cancer.

The method has been used with mixed success on patients with bowel, cervical and liver cancers. However, this is the first time it has been tried on someone with breast cancer.

Experts believe the case, discussed at an American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting, marks the start of a breakthrough for thousands of women who currently have no hope.

The institute said: "This fascinating and exciting study in a single breast cancer patient provides a major 'proof-of-principle' step forward, in showing how the power of the immune system can be harnessed to attack even the most difficult-to-treat cancer."

By the time the new trial started, the cancer had spread to her liver, as well as lymph nodes in her chest wall and abdomen. Dr Steven Rosenberg, a member the medical team, said: "The important point is that this is using a patient's own cells to attack their own cancer."

Ms Perkins said: "Experts may call it extended remission, but I call it a cure." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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