Setting the Body's 'Serial Killers' Loose on Cancer

by KaylaOttensman1 on December 13, 2016 - 3:57pm

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/02/health/cancer-cell-therapy-immune-syst...

 

 

The article I have chosen focuses on the long, grueling pursuit for an effective cure for cancer. As the article begins, The story of Dr. Rosenberg's journey is shared. He himself was a holocaust survivor, but 6 out of 9 of his father's siblings were killed. His family escaped and immigrated to the United States from Poland, which would ultimately cause Dr. Rosenberg to pursue medicine. He saw so much evil in the world and knew he wanted to bring something positive to people's lives. He was a major role in the creation of Cell Therapy. When he began at the National Cancer Institute in 1974, his first attempt at immunotherapy was to use T-cells harvested from pigs which ultimately failed, but sparked his interest in the use of T-cells. He had a huge success in his 67th patient with the use of a protein made by the body that makes T-cells multiply rapidly which began an incredible journey. Dr. Carl June and Dr. Michel Sadelain have been on the forefront of this research with Dr.Rosenberg for decades, working in separate labs to bring to life this therapy that no one thought would work. They have all been a huge part in creating something that benefits the world in so many ways. Although Cell Therapy only works with some B-cell Lymphomas and Leukemias right now, it's a start to creating a therapy that works on tumorous cancers as well. It gives us hope that there is something out there that can cure this horrible disease and end the suffering of so many that can still keep their lives.  As the article gets into what exactly Cell Therapy is, you can see how some people may think it's a long shot. Cell Therapy first requires the patient to undergo Chemotherapy to kill off as many T-cells that it can in order to make room for new T-cells that will be personalized and which the lab will genetically engineer to attack the cancer. You can see why the article gained its title from how the process is explained. These new T-cells are quite literally the body’s “serial killers” because of their strength when they are in attack mode and killing hundred of thousands of Cancer cells. In some cases people died before the 2-4 week span it takes to create these intense killer cells which is slightly discouraging, but there are success stories that create a positive vibe toward this therapy. The success stories of a few people are shared throughout the article which does give hope. One of Dr. June’s patients, Bill Ludwig had already paid for his funeral when he received this treatment. It saved his life, but not without turmoil.  It is a very intense treatment. When the genetically engineered T-cells are transfused into the blood, the patient will experience life threatening conditions, however this is how you know the treatment is working. This includes, a high fever often above 104, Intense cold sweats, possibly seizures, and hallucinations. Ludwig’s lungs started to fail, his legs ballooned to twice their size, blood pressure dropped,and he started to hallucinate, but when he came to, no cancer was detected. It is not yet mainstream because it is still trying to be FDA approved basically. However, we could see this treatment available to 400 people per year as early as 2017 or 2018.

 

What first caught my attention was the title; "Setting the Body's 'Serial Killers' Loose on Cancer. I think that title would capture the attention of anybody and make them want to know what exactly they mean. I already knew it wasn't going to be a boring read. I chose this article because of it's importance and my interest in what our bodies are capable of. As I was reading the article my eyes widened several times. The fact that there are microscopic parts of our bodies that can be taken out and genetically altered to cure something that is fatal is incredible to me. It i also amazing that our bodies can sustain the life threatening ordeals these genetically engineered T-cells can put us through. I think it's a huge breakthrough and a huge step in the right direction for finding a cure. I feel it is important to share that there is being research and clinical trials done, and that there is still hope for people with this malevolent disease. Reading that this treatment could be available in a few months or just a year, although most likely very very expensive, makes me feel that this could be a sign that we will see a cure for cancer in our lifetime. Even though it will not cure every type of cancer, it is still a miraculous finding. The next generation will be greatly affected. Being so close to a cure at this point in time, can only mean more opportunities for success in the future. It definitely adds a positive feeling a world with so much negativity. I don't think there are many things in the medical field that can top finding a cure for Cancer.

 

Reading this article sparked a few questions for me. It made me ask myself; Is this really an effective option with the risks and horrible side effects you can experience? I mean a number of people died because of brain swelling, but there are a number of successes too. Is this a risk worth taking? I also found myself wondering where they go from here. They have come such a long way in understanding T-cells and how to engineer them for a specific person, I wonder if they know how to continue the trials to have a higher success rate that is almost guaranteed to every patient.

 

Overall this article has opened my eyes to accomplishments that are happening in this world. With so many focusing on violence in the news or the presidential election, positive things like this are being overlooked. I think everyone could use some positivity and that's what this article did for me. It showed me that medicine is still, and always will be progressing. The search for a cure will never stop.

 

 

Comments

Kayla, I have to admit that the title of your article "Setting the Body's "Serial Killers" Loose on Cancer", is what caught my eye too. I think that having taken several classes in criminal justice, anything that has to do with serial killers, makes me stop and want to read about it. After I began reading what you wrote, the topic became very real to me because my grandfather is currently struggling with lung cancer as I'm writing this. I couldn't agree more that a cure for cancer would be incredible. In the case of Bill Ludwig, the man who had already paid for his funeral, the side effects of the treatment were horrible. Fortunately, he lived through them and is a cancer survivor. I agree with you that more research is needed in this area to make the treatment effective but with fewer life-threatening side effects. I really found the description of the redesigned T-cells fascinating. They really are amazing little "serial killers".

Kayla,
This summary was so well written and greatly detailed. As I read it I suddenly began to think about all of the times cancer has affected the lives around me and an end to it would be a miracle. This cell therapy treatment seems HARD for patients, but it also seems worth it. Cancer has become a non stop fight for so so so many people of the world and to finally have something that is giving some good results is good news. This idea seems outside of the box and that is exactly where we need to think when thinking of cancer. It is something that doctors see every single day, yet are still struggling to come to terms with how to stop it. I hope this does help people and save the life of so many. Very well written.

All I can say is "Absolutely fascinating!"

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