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Could gene therapy be the newest cancer treatment?




A breast cancer patient receives a trial medication treatment in the infusion center at the UCSF Comprehensive Cancer Center August 18, 2005 in San Francisco, California.
A breast cancer patient receives a trial medication treatment in the infusion center at the UCSF Comprehensive Cancer Center August 18, 2005 in San Francisco, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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A new gene therapy could be approved for certain leukemia patients. And that may open doors for a new swath of cancer treatments using the same science.

As reported by the New York Times, the approval would likely spark new ways to use the technology for breast, prostate, ovary, lung and pancreatic cancers. It is also being studied for glioblastoma, the brain tumor John McCain was recently diagnosed with.

A new method uses immune cells extracted from donated samples of umbilical-cord blood, and are combined with other types of cell therapy. Researchers are also trying to administer these treatments in the early stages of leukemia. Another approach uses cells from components of the immune system known as killer cells which fight foreign threats in the body.

So what are the risks involved in these new therapies? How would they potentially increase the survival rate? When can we expect them to go into effect?

Libby Denkmann speaks to a developer of one of these new therapies to find out more.

Guests:

Stephen Forman, M.D., lead researcher at City of Hope’s T-Cell immunotherapy research laboratory; his focus includes immunotherapy cancer treatment, and stem cell transplantation research

Katy Rezvani, M.D., Ph.D., professor and researcher of stem cell transplantation and cellular therapy at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center