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'Serial killer' cells sent in to wipe out leukaemia

Mutant "serial killer" cells that can wipe out leukaemia within a month have been developed by scientists.

Researchers have pioneered a technique that involves leukaemia patients being treated with their own T cells -- a type of white blood cell -- that have been genetically modified to attack and destroy tumours within their bodies.

Dr Carl June, the lead researcher, said the treatment was so powerful that tumours were "blown away" within a month, and with far fewer side effects than existing treatment.


Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania's Abramson Cancer Centre in America tested the treatment on three patients suffering from chronic lymphocytic leukaemia.

After removing the patient's T cells, the team reprogrammed them to attack tumours by binding to a protein expressed by cancerous cells.

The T cells were programmed to multiply when the binding occurs and attack until all the cancer cells were destroyed.

The study was published in the Journal of Medicine and Science Translational Medicine. It said one patient, a 64--year--old man whose blood and marrow were riddled with tumours, responded extraordinarily well. By day 28, his blood and bone marrow appeared clear of leukaemia.

Dr June said: "Within three weeks, the tumours had been blown away, in a way that was much more violent than we ever expected. It worked much better than we thought it would."

The team now hopes to use the treatment to combat other types of cancer.