July 2nd 2008 post. Off and on during the past few months, there has been a bit of discussion on the MMA listserv about a cancer treatment (considered by some to be controversial) developed by a team led by Zheng Cui, Ph.D., at the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. This treatment came up again as a topic in the past few days, too, and it just so happens that yesterday morning I read a pertinent Science Daily article (http://tinyurl.com/5qzdo6).
The following explains the procedure in a nutshell: The treatment will involve transfusing specific white blood cells, called granulocytes, from select donors, into patients with advanced forms of cancer. A similar treatment using white blood cells from cancer-resistant mice has previously been highly successful, curing 100 percent of lab mice afflicted with advanced malignancies. Curing? One hundred percent? Advanced malignancies?
A bit of background (http://www1.wfubmc.edu/tumorbio/srmouse/index.htm). In 1999, Dr. Cui and his team of researchers discovered by chance, it seems, a cancer-resistant mouse. This mouse remained healthy even when repeatedly injected with a particularly lethal form of cancer. The wonder mouse’s cancer-resistant trait was inherited by its babies, too. How about that for a shocker?!
Another shocker: the Wake Forest team subsequently determined that the mouse’s white cells cured, I repeat, cured advanced cancers in other lab mice. Yes indeed, this cancer-killing ability can be transferred from one mouse to another.
Well, it turns out that a similar cancer-killing activity, or CKA, is also present in the white blood cells of some human beings. That would explain why some people exposed to toxic crud of all sorts (surprisingly) don’t ever develop cancer, whereas people living the healthiest lifestyles possible do. The researchers postulate that some people may have a diminished activity of cancer resistance…an activity that could possibly be restored. Restored? Wow!
The team has already tested different groups of human beings and discovered that there exist different CKA levels. As expected, people with cancer have lower CKA levels than healthy people. The levels decrease with age, during the winter and in stressful periods (another good reason to avoid stress and, I suppose, to be happy, sigh!, about the horrendous heat wave that has hit Florence these days…).
Anyway, Wake Forest is getting ready to conduct a human clinical trial titled “Leukocyte Infusion Therapy Clinical Trial,” or LIFT for short. The idea is to inject cancer patients with white cells taken from healthy folks whose white cells possess sky-high CKA levels (lucky dudes!).
On the Wake Forest website (http://www1.wfubmc.edu/LIFT) you will be able to read more details, such as the background scientific research and the call for cancer patients/healthy volunteers to participate in the upcoming clinical trial.
I had a question in my mind about graft-versus-host disease, and found out that this issue will be addressed during the clinical trial: Donor granulocytes per se are not known to produce TA-GVHD. However, granulocytes collected via apheresis may contain with some donor T-lymphocytes that in some rare occasions can produce various degrees of TA-GVHD in some individuals, especially the recipients with immune suppression. Well, that would seem to exclude us myeloma folks from being able to try this procedure, eh…
But hey, it is too early to reach any conclusions. I really hope that the results of the human trial will be the same, or even better!, than the mice experiments. And that there will be no hint of GVHD! Yeah!
Cancer-resistant humans, who would ever have thought that possible, except in a science fiction movie? Remarkable, simply remarkable…