'Amazing' new cancer treatment coming to Seattle

'Amazing' new cancer treatment coming to Seattle »Play Video
Dr. Michael Jensen of the Seattle Children's Research Institute explains how the radical new cancer therapy works.
SEATTLE - A revolutionary new treatment that's shown amazing results in trials against leukemia is being called the biggest breakhrough in cancer research in decades.

It could show a new way to cure many cancers in the future - and that treatment soon could be available for tests in the Seattle area, according to doctors here.

"This is a major event in the field," says Dr. Michael Jensen of the Seattle Children's Research Institute.

Doctors at the University of Pennsylvania took blood from a leukemia patient, removed the T-cells, then introduced a harmless, modified form of HIV.

"So now they can attack cancer cells mostly by expressing a Velcro-like molecule on their surface, so when they bump up against a cancer cell they stick, and they think it's an infected cell, and they attack it," Dr. Jensen says.

The treatment has only been used on three patients with a specific kind of leukemia. Two are now cancer-free, and the third is in remission.

"We've learned a tremendous amount from these first three patients," says Dr. Jensen. "They've told us volumes about the potential of this new form of cancer immunotherapy."

With those amazing results in one tiny trial, researchers at Children's Research Institute here in Seattle will start local testing.

"We really want to see this roll out in the next 18 to 24 months," says Dr. Jensen. "That's our timetable."

If the new approach proves to be effective in larger trials, patients might one day no longer need dangerous and painful chemotherapy.

"I think this cancer therapy could be the type of cancer therapy that's so specific for the cancer that the worst side effects of being cured of your leukemia are feeling like you have a cold for a couple days," says Dr. Jensen.

And cancer patients may not be the only ones to benefit.

"Think about diabetes, multiple sclerosis and the other types of auto-immune disease," says Dr. Jensen. "Potentially, T-cell therapy could be used to turn off a damaging auto-immune disease."

Ushering in a new era in treatment and hope.

Researchers at Seattle Children's Hospital say this new type of therapy could also someday be used to fight deadly viruses as well.