CAR-T therapies are among the most exciting developments in cancer research in years — one of several approaches that harness the immune system to fight cancer.
Aaron Reid 20, of Lucedale, Miss., has been fighting leukemia since he was 9 years old. He has been through chemotherapy and radiation twice, a bone marrow transplant and two other treatments.
But the leukemia keeps coming back. This time, the cancer is all over his body. He can feel the pain in his bones. CAR-T therapy could be his last hope.
Today Reid will be receiving his “living drug” today. "I think it's amazing that they can find a way to use someone's own ... cells," Reid says. "Take out their own cells, teach it to do something and then put it back in them, and to be able to heal them. I think that's amazing."
The engineered cells are made by extracting T cells — a key part of the immune system -- from each patient's blood and then genetically modifying them in the lab. The T cells that are created carry structures on their surface called chimeric antigen receptors, or CAR for short.
"What we're doing is we are educating [the T cells] to say, 'These things don't belong,' " says Dr. Nirali Shah, a pediatric oncologist at the National Cancer Institute who is running a study Reid is in. " 'You need to get rid of them. Yes, I know that they started in the body. But they're not supposed to be there. You need to attack.' "
To read or listen to the complete NPR story visit http://www.wnpr.org/post/scientists-race-improve-living-drugs-fight-cancer