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New cancer weapon found

21st September 2007

Scientists are hoping to treat cancer by injecting ‘cancer-fighting’ cells from healthy people into cancer patients.

US researchers believe that although every person has some ability to fight cancer, some have immune cells which are more effective at killing cancer. These cells are known as granulocytes and their effectiveness varies from person to person.

Zheng Cui at Wake Forest University of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and his colleagues have been given permission from the US Food and Drug Administration to screen people for the cells, the New Scientist reports.

They hope to begin human trials next summer where they will give granulocytes from people with the most effective cells to cancer patients.

Last year Dr Cui successfully treated a range of different cancers in mice by injecting them with granulocytes from a strain of mice that is completely resistant to cancer.

Commenting on the plans, John Gribben, a cancer immunologist at Cancer Research UK’s experimental medicine centre at St Bartholomew’s hospital, London, told the New Scientist: “The concept of using immune cells from one person to fight cancer in another person is a very hot topic right now.”

But he warned that there could be a number of problems with mixing cells into different immune systems.

“If they’re using live cells there is a theoretical risk of graftversus-host disease, which can prove fatal.”

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