British scientists crack killer cancer code

An Immune System Trained to Kill Cancer

  • A year ago, when chemotherapy stopped working against William Ludwig’s
    leukemia.
  • Doctors removed a billion of his T-cells — a type of white blood cell that fights viruses and tumors — and gave them new genes that would program the cells to attack his cancer. Then the altered cells were dripped back into Mr. Ludwig’s veins.
  • At first, nothing happened. But after 10 days, hell broke loose in his hospital room. He began shaking with chills. His temperature shot up. His blood pressure shot down. He became so ill that doctors moved him into intensive care and warned that he might die. His family gathered at the hospital, fearing the worst.
  • A few weeks later, the fevers were gone. And so was the leukemia.
    A year later, Mr. Ludwig is still in complete remission. Before, there were days when he could barely get out of bed; now, he plays golf and does yard work.
  • Scientists say the treatment that helped Mr. Ludwig, described recently in The New England Journal of Medicine and Science Translational Medicine, may signify a turning point in the long struggle to develop effective gene therapies against cancer. » The full New York Times article – By Denise Grady – Published: September 12, 2011.

Eventually a simple blood test will lead to accurate “made to measure” treatments

  • to identify, attack and kill the causes of each patient’s own individual cancer, they claim.
  • Professor Mike Stratton, of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, a world leading research centre in Cambridge who carried the studies, said: “What you are seeing today is going to transform the way that we see cancer.
    “This is a really fundamental moment in the history of cancer research.”
  • Cancer cells under microscope
    Grim beauty Deadly diseases under the microscope Photo: Wellcome Images

  • All cancers are caused by damage or mutations to the DNA of formerly healthy cells acquired during a person’s lifetime.
    This damage causes them to grow into abnormal lumps or tumors and spread around the body disrupting its normal processes and eventually – if unchecked – causing death.
  • In lung cancer the damage is almost entirely caused by smoking and in skin cancer or malignant melanoma by ultraviolet sunlight.
    The Sanger Institute studies used powerful new DNA sequencing technologies to decode completely the genome of both tumor tissue and normal tissue from a lung cancer and a malignant melanoma patient.
  • They then compared and contrasted the two to discover the differences and see what damage has occurred to cause the disease. » The full Telegraph Uk article » By Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent.

  • The New York Times – Learning Network – Learning About Cell Renewal Throughout the Body
    Overview: Students learn about the latest research on cell and tissue renewal. They then explore the various internal body parts and systems examined in these studies.  Go to this Health and Science Lesson.
  • The New York Times – Learning Network – Talking about Breast Cancer:
    Students share words and associations related to cancer. They then investigate and participate in dialogues about the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. Go to this Health, Science and Life’s Lesson.
  • The New York Times – Learning Network – Evaluating the Changing Perceptions of Cigarette Smoking
    Overview: Students learn about the changing public perception of cigarettes over the century. They design a survey on people’s views on cigarette smoking for homework. Go to this Health and Science Lesson.

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