We’ve all seen at least one ER drama in our lifetimes, right? We’ve seen the same plotlines many times, oftentimes recycled into multiple seasons. One character has to get a kidney transplant, only to have their body reject it as the doctors frantically search for another donor. A second patient finds out they have cancer, completely unexpectedly and at an advanced stage. A third patient has had cancer for years and their body has stopped responding to their current treatment, now they’re faced with a few choices on what they’d want to try next.
We love to watch the doctors on these shows come up with a treatment that turns a seemingly hopeless situation into a miracle. Well, as innovation in medicine progresses, the writers of these shows may need to update their material. These problems we commonly see on medical dramas could be dramatically lessened or possibly eliminated entirely thanks to research in fields such as custom cell therapy.
What Is Custom Cell Therapy?
Custom cell therapy is essentially when health professionals are able to customize certain cells or stem cells and inject them into the body. These cells are customized or personalized to a patient’s specific body chemistry so they’re able to treat or even cure certain diseases by eliminating the offending cells from a patient’s body. This can be beneficial in many areas of medicine from cancer treatments to organ transplants.
Used As Prevention
Cell therapy can be used as a means to take preventative measures to help patients with certain diseases or ailments. For example, patients may be able to use custom cell therapy or precision medicine in order to identify their risk of getting cancer based on their genetic makeup. And, if the patient does have cancer, precision medicine may allow doctors to use tests to identify how their specific biology will affect treatment or what treatment options would work best for them.
Consider organ transplant patients. One company called CareDX works to create blood tests that will allow doctors to identify treatment problems in real-time and correct them so that the organ will remain viable for longer. CareDX is a precision medicine company that utilizes next-generation sequencing using simple blood tests to allow medical practitioners to customize and optimize a patient’s care.
When working with a transplant patient, a doctor will need to determine the amount of immunosuppression being given. The goal is to use enough immunosuppression that the body will not reject the new organ, but not too much that the patient becomes susceptible to infections or cancers. Using this test, a doctor can track in real-time how the patient is reacting to the immunosuppressants and tweak the patient’s care if need be to fit their body’s specific needs. The future goal is that these tests will become so advanced that simply testing a patient’s blood or urine will eliminate the need for a biopsy entirely.
Used For Treatment
Having a more well-rounded understanding of the genetic and molecular signals that regulate cell division, specialization, and differentiation in cells could allow experts to learn not only what causes certain diseases but how to customize treatments based on a specific person’s genetic makeup. For example, consider the field of cancer treatment.
According to Hopkins Medicine, one study from the Kimmel Cancer Center suggests potentially using a patient’s own immune cells to fight their cancer. The approach is called Adoptive T Cell Therapy and it utilizes cells from bone marrow (or MILs). MILs are a type of T cell that can recognize cancer cells. When it comes to blood cancer, researchers have noticed that MILs are found in the bone marrow where cancer has originated. This treatment approach involves first taking a patient’s own MILs from their bone marrow. Next, experts will increase their numbers and coat the cells with special immune-activating antibodies. Finally, they’ll infuse the cells back into the patient’s body so that they are able to fight the cancer cells.
In a 2016 trial utilizing this technique, 22 patients with multiple myeloma were given this T cell therapy. One year after the treatment, 13 patients saw a 50 percent reduction in their cancer, and 7 patients saw a 90 percent reduction.