Scientists conducting research on cancer patients have claimed "extraordinary" results, with one study showing a disappearance of symptoms in 94 percent of patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
The Guardian reports that 80 percent of participants with other forms of blood cancer saw a positive response to the treatment, which involves engineering immune T-cells that target cancer cells in the body. Many of the patients whose cancer responded to the process were previously projected to have two to five months to live.
"This is extraordinary," said Dr. Stanley Riddell, lead scientist for the project. "This is unprecedented in medicine to be honest, to get response rates in this range in these very advanced patients."
Sky News reports that Riddell described the results as a "potential paradigm shift" in cancer treatment. He also added that more work was needed, and that the scientists did not yet know how long that the now symptom-free patients would be in remission from the cancer -- remission is not the same as being cured of cancer, because it can still come back.
Riddell also said one of the next steps is to try the immune cell therapy on patients with solid tumors, though he added that it could be difficult, because the body's natural defenses sometimes have trouble recognizing cancer cells.
In 2015 a similar treatment was used, with success that doctors called "staggering," to help save the life of Layla Richards, a 1-year-old girl with leukemia. After chemotherapy and other treatments failed to beat the girl's cancer, Sky News reported, a gene-editing technique that had only been used on mice killed the cancer cells and saved Layla's life.
"We will have to wait and see how these type of treatments play out for solid cancers such as cancers of the lung or the bowel or the breast and so on," said Waseem Qasim, one the immunologists who treated Richards. "The first tranche of investigations and successes I think will be in the blood-type cancers."
Speaking about the T-cell therapy, Riddell said, "Much like chemotherapy and radiotherapy, it’s not going to be a save-all."
"I think immunotherapy has finally made it to a pillar of cancer therapy," he added.