if you have not looked at the latest issue of philadelphia magazine, you have to grab one asap either on newsstands or on-line. and not why you think. i know, i know, the cover story is the best of philly, the most popular issue of the year and as if that weren’t enough, the cover picture is of a pile of doughnuts (very good doughnuts from what i hear). but that’s the not the reason to see the issue.
read the article titled, “has carl june found the key to fighting cancer?” you will hardly find better summer (or anytime) reading. kudos to writer jason fagone for the masterful way in which he tells this story and bigger kudos to carl june, david porter, bruce levine, and michael kalos who are the stars of the story.
dr. porter, one of the physicians whose work is profiled in the piece, is L’s oncologist at penn’s abramson cancer center and he, together with carl june, an expert in immunotherapy, bruce levine in vaccine production and michael kalos professor of pathology may just have found a cure for cancer.
pause and consider that.
they would never say they’ve found a cure, in fact, i’m considered unscientific for saying that. but the work is so exciting and the results of their trials even more exciting that i’m going to say it anyway.
in short, what they have done is figured out how to extract a person’s t-cells (a type of white blood cell that play a central role in cell-mediated immunity), essentially hop them up, multiply them, infuse them back into the patient and wait for the patient’s own cells to attack the cancer. which they do in a big way. so big, that the team almost lost a couple of patients when their body’s immune system went into overdrive.
it’s a simple yet elegant solution to fighting cancer and, oh by the way, brilliant. this team is not the only team of researchers working along these lines. every major cancer center has clinical trials in this type of gene-therapy as a cancer treatment.
make no mistake, these trials are revolutionary. i would call them miraculous but that discounts the brilliant thinking and hard work of these professionals. chances are these therapies will be fast-tracked by the fda and become standard therapies in the next decade or so.
i try not to think too much about how L may have been able to skip the tough road of a bone marrow transplant if she had been diagnosed when this gene therapy was standard treatment.
instead, i’m imagining the number of lives that will be saved, the children who will live to be adults. i’m imagining the patients who will no longer have to endure the rigorous road of chemotherapy or bone marrow transplant. i’m imagining what it will be like for legions of patients to hear a diagnosis of cancer and not think that it’s a death sentence.
i’ve said it before and i continue to repeat it: it’s a bright new world.