This new immunotherapy was decidedly different from the treatments people received before. Instead of attacking the cancer with poisons like chemotherapy and radiation, the Philadelphia doctors taught the immune cells to become more adept at killing the cancer cells. This is the basic concept behind immunotherapy.
“This is absolutely one of the more exciting advances I’ve seen in cancer therapy in the last 20 years,” said Dr. David Porter, a hematologist and oncologist at University of Pennsylvania. “We’ve entered into a whole new realm of medicine.”
In this therapy, doctors first remove the patient’s T-cells, which play a crucial role in the immune system. They then reprogram the cells by transferring in new genes. Once infused back into the body, each modified T-cell multiplies to 10,000 T-cells. These “hunter” cells then track down and kill the cancer in a patient’s body.