We sat down with GE Healthcare Life Sciences's Dr. Dolores Baksh to talk about a new type of cancer treatment that involves genetically modifying the patient's immune cells to fight cancer cells. Here's how she explained it to us:
"So when we're talking about cell therapy, we're asking, the cells in the body to do something. We're talking about the immune cells, one specific immune cell, the T-cell.
"Here's a sick patient and they have cancer, and we're going to take their material, their T-cells and we're going to supercharge those T-cells. And in order to do that, we have to take the cells out of their body and we're going to have to manipulate those cells.
"So ... the patient will show up to their doctor's office if they're diagnosed with cancer. Blood cells are removed from the patient through a process called apheresis, and this apheresis product is collected in a bag. The blood essentially has the ... targeted cell-types we're interested in. These are the immune cells, the T-cells. These are the cells that are actually going to fight the cancer cells.
"We're going to have to make them smart and in order to make them smart, we're going to do genetic engineering on those T-cells. And we're going to create the DNA that is necessary for those T-cells to recognize the cancer cells."
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American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy: Gene Therapy Strategies to Correct or Eliminate Cancer Cells
GE Life Sciences: Cell Therapy Research
Cancer.gov: Immunotherapy: Using the Immune System to Treat Cancer