EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

World/National News

December 8, 2013

Gene therapy scores big wins against blood cancers

(Continued)

“What we are giving essentially is a living drug” — permanently altered cells that multiply in the body into an army to fight the cancer, said Dr. David Porter, a University of Pennsylvania scientist who led one study.

Several drug and biotech companies are developing these therapies. Penn has patented its method and licensed it to Switzerland-based Novartis AG. The company is building a research center on the Penn campus in Philadelphia and plans a clinical trial next year that could lead to federal approval of the treatment as soon as 2016.

Talking with the researchers, “there is a sense of making history ... a sense of doing something very unique,” said Hervé Hoppenot, president of Novartis Oncology, the division leading the work.

Lee Greenberger, chief scientific officer of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, agreed.

“From our vantage point, this looks like a major advance,” he said. “We are seeing powerful responses ... and time will tell how enduring these remissions turn out to be.”

The group has given $15 million to various researchers testing this approach. Nearly 49,000 new cases of leukemia, 70,000 cases of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and 22,000 cases of myeloma are expected to be diagnosed in the United States in 2013.

Many patients are successfully treated with chemotherapy or bone marrow or stem cell transplants, but transplants are risky and donors can’t always be found. So far, gene therapy has been tried on people who were in danger of dying because other treatments failed.

The gene therapy must be made individually for each patient, and lab costs now are about $25,000, without a profit margin. That’s still less than many drugs to treat these diseases and far less than a transplant.

The treatment can cause severe flu-like symptoms and other side effects, but these have been reversible and temporary, doctors say.

Penn doctors have treated the most cases so far — 59. Of the first 14 patients with CLL, four had complete remissions, four had partial ones and the rest did not respond. However, some partial responders continue to see their cancer shrink a year after treatment.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Latest News
World/National News

Latest U.S. News
Four Rescued From Crashed Plane Clinton Before 9-11: Could Have Killed Bin Laden Couple Channel Grief Into Soldiers' Retreat WWI Aviation Still Alive at Aerodrome in NY Raw: Woman Who Faced Death Over Faith in N.H. Russell Simmons, LL Cool J Visit Youth at Jail Raw: Obama Gets Hug From Special Olympian US, UN Announce Deal on Gaza Cease-Fire Despite Moratorium, Detroit Water Worries Remain Faith Leaders Arrested at DC Deportation Protest Family Dispute Cripples Northeast Grocery Chain CDC Warns Travelers Amid Ebola Outbreak US Stocks Plunge, Wiping Out July's Gains Demoted Worker Shoots CEO, Kills Self Obama Slams Republicans Over Lawsuit Raw: 2 Hurt in NY Trench Collapse House Leaders Trade Blame for Inaction Cantor Warns of Instability, Terror in Farewell Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers Small Plane Crash in San Diego Parking Lot
Latest World News
Clinton Before 9-11: Could Have Killed Bin Laden Today in History for August 1st Raw: Rescuers at Taiwan Explosion Scene US, UN Announce Deal on Gaza Cease-Fire US Warns Against Traveling to Ebola-hit Areas Raw: Deadly Taiwan Gas Leak Explosion Netanyahu Vows to Destroy Hamas Tunnels Malaysian PM: Stop Fighting in Ukraine Workers Dig for Survivors After India Landslide Fighting Blocks Access to Ukraine Crash Site Raw: Smoke, Explosions Fill Gaza Skyline Today in History for July 31st Raw: 16 Killed in Gaza Market Strike Raw: Guinea Rap Concert Stampede Kills 33+ Raw: Deadly Landslide Hits Indian Village Graphic Video: 15 Killed at Gaza UN School Russia Counts Cost of New US, EU Sanctions Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways Raw: Floodwaters Ravage Villages in Romania Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle
Photos of the Week