Cancer patients with rare deadly brain infection treated successfully with off-the-shelf adoptive T-cell therapy
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IMAGE: This is Katy Rezvani, M.D., Ph.D. view more 

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Credit: MD Anderson Cancer Center

An emerging treatment known as adoptive T-cell therapy has proven effective in a Phase II clinical trial for treating progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML), a rare and often fatal brain infection sometimes observed in patients with cancer and other diseases in which the immune system is compromised.

The study, led by Katy Rezvani, M.D., Ph.D., professor, Department of Stem Cell Transplantation and Cellular Therapy at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, showed marked improvement in three PML patients infused with donor T cells targeting the BK virus. Findings were published in the Oct. 11 online issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Results from the proof-of-principle study demonstrated BK, a virus similar to the JC virus which causes PML, as the basis for a potentially viable therapy. Both viruses are named for the initials of the patients in which they were first identified.

“The JC and BK viruses are genetically similar and share proteins that can be targeted by the immune system,” said Rezvani. “Because of these similarities, we hypothesized that T cells developed against BK virus may also be effective against JC virus infection.”

Rezvani’s team developed a novel

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