(Updates from with data, comments from press conference,
By Julie Steenhuysen
CHICAGO, June 2 A new type of personalized
cancer therapy in which immune cells are harvested from
patients' tumors, grown in the lab and infused back into
patients showed dramatic results in a small, government-led
trial in women with advanced cervical cancer, U.S. researchers
said on Monday.
Two women in the study who had tumors that had spread
throughout their bodies had a complete remission of their
cancers after a single treatment, according to the study
presented at the American College of Clinical Oncology meeting
The trial by researchers at the National Cancer Institute is
the first to show that this promising new technology known as
adoptive T cell therapy can have an impact in solid tumors, said
Dr Renier Brentjens, director of cellular therapeutics at
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, who was not involved in
The approach attempts to take advantage of the body's own T
cells - infection-fighting white blood cells that recognize and
mount an attack on harmful invaders such as viruses and cancer.
Researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering have already shown
dramatic results in blood cancers such as acute lymphoblastic
"This is yet another example of a successful application of
adoptive T cell immunotherapy, now in the realm of solid tumors,
such as cervical cancers," Brentjens said. "We're starting to
see that T cells, if properly targeted, can eradicate incurable
In this early-stage trial, researchers studied nine women
with metastatic cervical cancer caused by the human
papillomavirus (HPV) in whom there are currently few treatment
For the therapy, researchers essentially beefed up the
patients' own weak immune responses to the cancer by removing T
cells from their tumors that recognize two HPV-related proteins
known as E6 and E7. The team then grew up batches of these
HPV-targeting immune cells and returned them to the patients to
fight the cancer.
Of the nine women tested, three responded. One had a partial
response in which the tumor shrank by nearly 40 percent, a
response that lasted for three months. Two patients have had
complete remission of their cancers that so far has lasted for
15 months in one patient and 22 months in the other.
"What this means is on a very specific level is patients
that have otherwise metastatic cervical cancer now have a
treatment option that may in about a third of cases provide them
with durable disease response," Brentjens said.
Tinkering with the immune system in this way caused some
serious side effects, however, including low blood counts and
infections, but the findings are promising enough to expand the
trial to more patients, the team said.
Study leader Dr Christian Hinrichs of the National Cancer
Institute said in a press conference at the ASCO meeting that
the government plans to expand this study to 35 women with
cervical cancer. It will also test this technology in other
cancers caused by HPV, including oral and anal cancers.
Currently, the study is only going on at the National Cancer
Institute, and researchers at the ASCO meeting acknowledged that
the labor-intensive technology may be difficult to scale up at
Unlike the approach taken at Memorial Sloan Kettering and
other centers known as CAR T, the technology does not involve
any genetic engineering of the immune cells.
Dr Steven O'Day of the University of Southern California,
who moderated the press conference, said the study was a
"dramatic proof of principle" that the technology could help
women with advanced cervical cancer.
"These are young women who had failed multiple attempts at
directed targeted therapy."
"We're moving it into a disease that is generally has not
seen well by the immune system, but we're using this HPV virus
to tease out T-cells, expanding those in the lab, and giving
"It's a very exciting approach," he said.
(Editing by Eric Walsh and David Gregorio)