Gene therapy may help fight tough-to-treat blood cancer

A gene therapy that tweaks the immune system might offer hope to people with blood cancer that has resisted standard treatments, a new preliminary trial suggests.

The cancer, called multiple myeloma, arises in certain white blood cells. It is currently incurable, but there are treatments that can help people live with the disease for years.

However, most people eventually progress, and some fail to respond to the available therapies at all.

The new study involved 33 patients just like that: They’d typically had seven to eight rounds of various treatments and were out of options. So researchers tried a recently developed approach that harnesses the immune system’s cancer-killing potential: CAR T-cell therapy.

It involves removing immune system T-cells from a patient, then genetically altering them to be armed with chimeric antigen receptors, or CARs.

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