Scientist are harnessing the power of red blood cells to help fight deadly cancers and other diseases.
Researchers collected red blood cells from patients and modified them so that anti-cancer or other medicines were enclosed, then injected them back into the patients.
The treatment nicknamed “super blood” aims to improve the effectiveness of medicines while reducing harmful side effects.
'SUPER BLOOD' TREATMENT
In a study presented at the American Association for Cancer Research Conference in April, researchers said that adding L-asparaginase, an enzyme that is part of a multi-drug chemotherapy treatment, to red blood cells and injecting them into 13 patients with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, a blood cancer, appeared safe.
“L-asparaginase is a very good treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, but toxicity from chemotherapy can be significant and can delay further needed chemotherapy,” said Alison Walker, one of the authors and associate professor of haematology at Ohio State University’s Comprehensive Cancer Center in the US.
In the new “super blood” treatment, the chemotherapy is inside the red blood cells, so there is less exposure and less toxicity.
It also allows the drugs to target tumours more directly. The drugs also stay in the body longer, so “super blood” treatment may be more effective in the long run.
Research has shown that the treatment can delay symptoms and the course of the disease.
In one study, 18 patients given monthly infusions for six months had a better score on a commonly used scale to assess motor skills and many other aspects of daily living.
The company is conducting its final study before seeking regulatory approval. Results of that study are expected to be out by the second half of 2019.
The treatment has already been granted orphan drug status by the Food and Drug Administration of the US. That means the drug is designed to treat rare diseases.
Experts say the new technology builds on another treatment known as CAR T-cell therapy.
CAR T-cell therapy draws on the power of the body’s T cells, known as the workhorses of the immune system, due to their ability to find and kill diseased cells.
In the CAR T process, blood is drawn from a patient, then T cells are separated and genetically engineered to boost their tumour-fighting ability, then returned to the patient through an IV.
Compared to CAR T, “super blood” treatment has more advantages. The “super blood” treatment is easier to use, can be made more quickly, and is long-lasting.