Wonderful Engineering

Groundbreaking Gene-Editing Therapy Treats Cancer In Two Infants

IMAGE: Great Ormond Street Hospital

Scientists at Great Ormond Street Hospital have just released an incredible news spelling a breakthrough in the fight against cancer. They have just announced that infants who were diagnosed with an aggressive and previously incurable leukemia are now in remission, all thanks to the so-called “designer T cells.”

This is the first ever case of cancer being treated using genetically engineered immune cells from another person, and the details of the procedure and results were published on Wednesday in Science Translational Medicine.

The feat was accomplished by engineering an immune cell called a T cell, which directly attacks the cancerous cells. Blood is collected from donors, where healthy immune T-cells are isolated using a genetic engineering tool known as TALENs. Then certain T-cell genes are deactivated that allows them to go through unnoticed by the white blood cells, which normally would be attacked and rejected once transplanted into a leukemia patient.

The two infants, aged 11 and 16 months, had gone many treatments before this, but all in vain.  One of the infants, Layla Richards, who was diagnosed with cancer when only three months old, was in the spotlight fall last year when the doctors announced that she was vastly improving with just a few months of treatment.

But still, the scientists had been reluctant on claiming that she was cured, until now. Now, the scientists confidently stated that Richards is in remission, and they have applied the same technique on another baby and cured him as well.

In similar treatments, engineered T-cells have been highly successful against blood cancers, but the current technique offers a lot cheaper and faster cure. Promising, isn’t it?