Leukemia Research Foundation News

Two Patients Still Cancer-Free Ten Years After CAR T-Cell Therapy

In 2010, two leukemia patients received an experimental immunotherapy called CAR T-cell therapy. Ten years later, the patients are in remission, suggesting a long-term therapy for leukemia – some researchers even describe it as a possible cure.

CAR T-cell therapy uses the patients’ own genetically engineered immune cells to track down and destroy cancer cells. Based on the results of the study, “we can now conclude that CAR T-cells can actually cure patients with leukemia,” cancer immunologist and study coauthor Carl June said at a February 1 news briefing.

Doug Olsen was one of the patients. “From a patient’s viewpoint, when you’re told you’re pretty much out of options, the important thing is always to maintain hope. And certainly, I hoped this was going to work,” Olsen said at the news briefing.

Olsen was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) when he was 49. He underwent chemotherapy, putting him in remission for about five years before he experienced a rapid decline. By 2010, “about 50% of my bone marrow was CLL.”

Olsen was given his first infusion of CAR T-cells in September of 2010. Shortly after, he began experiencing severe flu-like symptoms, a common side effect of the therapy. A week later, his oncologist told him that no cancer cells could be detected in his body.

Doctors and researchers “don’t use words like ‘cure’ lightly or easily,” said oncologist and study coauthor David Porter. But with both patients remaining cancer-free and the CAR T-cells still on patrol and on surveillance for residual leukemia after a decade, the therapy has performed “beyond our wildest expectations.”

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