Your Health: A new treatment for cancer

For people with cancer, chemo and radiation can be life-saving, but they can also cause serious side effects.
Published: Sep. 15, 2022 at 5:25 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - For people with cancer, chemo and radiation can be life-saving, but they can also cause serious side effects.

“I lost all of my hair. I lost my eyelashes. I lost my eyebrows,” said Jenifer Briley. “I didn’t tolerate food for a while. I ran fevers. I had bone pain.”

Researchers are studying a new method that could eliminate the need for chemo and radiation before having a treatment called t-cell therapy. With this approach, doctors collect a patient’s own immune cells, grow and enhance them in a lab and then inject them back. Normally, patients need to receive chemo and radiation to wipe out their immune system before t-cell therapy, but that could change down the road.

“Immunotherapy has been the holy grail really of cancer therapy because we know the immune system is able to kill cancer cells,” said Dr. Andre Goy. “You reset the immune system and it continues to work.”

A research team led by UCLA, in collaboration with scientists from Stanford and the University of Pennsylvania, discovered engineering t-cells with a lab-made receptor called i-l-9 that allows the cancer-fighting cells to do their work without the need for chemo or radiation.

In one model involving mice, the researchers cured more than half of the animals that were treated with the synthetic i-l-9 receptor t-cells. This breakthrough could one day allow doctors to treat more cancer patients with t-cell therapy and fewer side effects.

T-cell therapy may be an option for different types of cancer, but it’s more commonly used in people with blood cancers.

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