Any proposed first generation rejuvenation toolkit of future decades must include a robust approach to cancer therapy, at the very least offering reliable detection methods and cures even if not providing outright prevention. An important part of cancer therapies presently under development is the ability to far more accurately target cancer cells, thereby greatly reducing the presently onerous, damaging side-effects of treatment. Of the numerous approaches to targeted therapies, immunotherapy is one of the most advanced towards widespread clinical adoption, as illustrated by the results of this early stage trial of a form of adoptive T cell therapy:
Researchers say they have safely used immune cells grown from patients' own bone marrow to treat multiple myeloma, a cancer of white blood cells. A trial was conducted involving a particular type of tumor-targeting T cell, known as marrow-infiltrating lymphocytes (MILs). "What we learned in this small trial is that large numbers of activated MILs can selectively target and kill myeloma cells." MILs are the foot soldiers of the immune system and attack foreign cells, such as bacteria or viruses. But in their normal state, they are inactive and too few in number to have a measurable effect on cancer.
For the clinical trial, the team enrolled 25 patients with newly diagnosed or relapsed multiple myeloma, although three of the patients relapsed before they could receive the MILs therapy. The scientists retrieved MILs from each patient's bone marrow, grew them in the laboratory to expand their numbers, activated them with microscopic beads coated with immune activating antibodies and intravenously injected each of the 22 patients with their own cells. Three days before the injections of expanded MILs, patients received high doses of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant, standard treatments for multiple myeloma.
One year after receiving the MILs therapy, 13 of the 22 patients had at least a partial response to the therapy, meaning that their cancers had shrunk by at least 50 percent. Seven patients experienced at least a 90 percent reduction in tumor cell volume and lived, on average, 25.1 months without cancer progression. The remaining 15 patients had an average of 11.8 progression-free months following MILs therapy. None of the participants had serious side effects from the MILs therapy. The overall survival was 31.5 months for those with less than 90 percent disease reduction, but this number has not yet been reached in those with better responses. The average follow-up time is currently more than six years.