Wednesday, September 19, 2007

News from the cancer front

Granulocytes. Never heard of them. But they may turn out to be very valuable, if this research pans out.

Cancer sufferers could be cured with injections of immune cells from other people within two years, scientists say.

US researchers have been given the go-ahead to give patients transfusions of “super strength” cancer-killing cells from donors.

Dr Zheng Cui, of the Wake Forest University School of Medicine, has shown in laboratory experiments that immune cells from some people can be almost 50 times more effective in fighting cancer than in others.

Dr Cui, whose work is highlighted in this week’s New Scientist magazine, has previously shown cells from mice found to be immune to cancer can be used to cure ordinary mice with tumours.

The work raises the prospect of using cancer-killing immune system cells called granulocytes from donors to significantly boost a cancer patient’s ability to fight their disease, and potentially cure them.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week gave Dr Cui permission to inject super-strength granulocytes into 22 patients.

Dr Cui said: “Our hope is that this could be a cure. Our pre-clinical tests have been exceptionally successful.

“If this is half as effective in humans as it is in mice it could be that half of patients could be cured or at least given one to two years extra of high quality life.

“The technology needed to do this already exists, so if it works in humans we could save a lot of lives, and we could be doing so within two years.”
Found at Instapundit, who says it's probably over-optimistic. Cancer research does seem to be one great breakthrough after another, yet people keep dying of it. I even heard a conspiracy theory voiced the other day: "I think they have found the cure for cancer, but only certain ones receive it." Those would be the ones whose cars have the 100 mile per gallon carburetor.

Will the people who have the super-strength granulocytes be allowed to sell them? How many does it take for a cure? Will a rate be set by the government, or will it be more like blood donations are now? Once a super-strength granulocyte donor is identified, how will his or her life change? Will these donors be rock stars, or property of the state? If we get one of these nationalized health care plans that the candidates are talking about, my bet is on the latter.

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