Gene Therapy Scores Big Wins Against Blood Cancers

December 9, 2013

The latest results from a Penn Medicine clinical trial in which leukemia patients' own immune cells are reprogrammed to attack their cancer were reported this weekend during the American Society of Hematology's Annual Meeting. The research team, led by Carl June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy in the department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and director of Translational Research in the Abramson Cancer Center, announced results of 59 patients – both adults and children, treated at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia – who received this experimental therapy after exhausting all other treatment options. "This is absolutely one of the more exciting advances I've seen in cancer therapy in the last 20 years," said co-investigator David Porter, MD, the Jodi Fisher Horowitz Professor in Leukemia Care Excellence and director of Blood and Marrow Transplantation in the Abramson Cancer Center. "We've entered into a whole new realm of medicine." The findings were covered in a front-page story of the Philadelphia Inquirer and in national news outlets including the Associated Press, CNN, WHYY/NPR, Bloomberg News and Al Jazeera America. The stories profile several adult and pediatric patients, including one of the first three adults who received the therapy in 2010 and remains in remission. He told the Associated Press he ran his first half-marathon in January and no longer worries about how long his remission will last. "I decided I'm cured. I'm not going to let that hang over my head anymore," he said. The AP article about the findings ran in more than 20 top newspapers across the nation, including the Washington Post, USA Today, the Boston Globe, the Miami Herald, and the New York Post. TV stories about research aired on more than 100 FOX, NBC and ABC affiliates across the country, and an ABC News Radio story aired on a dozen stations across the U.S.

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