Terminal breast cancer "cured" by injecting patient with billions of her own white blood cells

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/06/05/immunotherapy.html



I know that cancer breakthroughs are always overhyped, so I’m not going to get my hopes up about this being the new normal or anything. I’m just really stoked about the treatment itself.

I’m also interested in these drugs that “take the breaks off” your immune system. That’s a scary concept.


I heard this story yesterday on NPR, and it made me think of my aunt who died just a couple years ago (breast cancer).

It does kind of sound worrisome.



Do you want Deadpool? Because that’s how you get Deadpool.

Mirth aside, it would be fantastic if this became a viable way of fighting cancer.

Of course, the only problem is how on earth can Big Pharma patent your white blood cells?

If they can’t find a way to hoover up all your current and future income so you will be allowed to keep on living, there’s not much incentive for them to go down this road.

I’m not at all cynical. Why do you ask?


Obligatory xkcd https://xkcd.com/938/


On the one hand: Cool! I hope it proves to be more viable on a wide scale!
On the other: So, another treatment to keep the rich alive while the rest of us die because we’re too poor to afford it.


I definitely had the thought, “This does not sound cheap” while reading it. But who knows, maybe it’s cheaper than I think and getting cheaper all the time.

Of course what is “cheap” is very different for those of us in developed countries that have public healthcare than it is for people the US who have shoddy coverage.


Oh, they absolutely have a patent. These aren’t simply white blood cells from your body. They’re cells that were extracted from the patient, genetically modified and cultured in vitro and returned to the same patient. That’s an insanely expensive and highly specialized process. When these adoptive cell transfer (ACT) “drugs” show up to my pharmacy it essentially means we are receiving one 12x12x12 cooler with a $40k-100k price tag. Don’t want to screw that one up.


Ah, good then. I’m glad they have it covered. Whew.


Fuck cancer. This is really amazing research and i hope it’s a viable alternative to chemo because that process is really nasty and hard on the patient.


Oh, your talking about a Yeti cooler then. :slight_smile:

This. I’ve lost friends recently to cancer and research like this is magic worth believing in. Lets hope that they can add a few more patients to the list of success.


The cynic in me sees this patent being purchased by Pfizer or Merck and then being shelved indefinitely. Cured patients don’t generate revenue.


Good thing we don’t have a way to prevent cancer in the first place yet. Being able to successfully treat cancer would still generate a lot of money, coming up with a way to stop cancer in the first place is another story.


There are drugs on the market that cure conditions, last time I checked. But I hear your cynicism – Big Pharma ain’t to be trusted.


Pharma CEO: We’ve discovered a cure for cancer.
Shareholders: Great!
Pharma CEO: It does, however, entail the patient taking the treatment the rest of their life.
Shareholders: Even better!

[Ten years later]

Pharma CEO: We’ve discovered a cure for cancer that now requires just one-time treatment.
Shareholders: One time? But how will we make money?
Pharma CEO: Uh, you do realize how common cancer is, right?

[Ten years later]

Pharma CEO: We’ve discovered a genome-specific prophylaxis for cancer.
Shareholders: A what?
Pharma CEO: A means of preventing cancer in someone.
Shareholders: Why?
Pharma CEO: Huh?
Shareholders: Why prevention?
Pharma CEO: Because people don’t like getting cancer?

[Fifteen years later]

Pharma CEO: We’ve developed germ-line editing techniques as a prophylaxis for cancer.
Shareholders: [quizzical silence]
Pharma CEO: This means that cancer will now be preventable, with one-time treatment, through generations.
Shareholders: [gasps]
Pharma CEO: Yes, I know. Quite a feat.
Shareholders: But…but—
Pharma CEO: How will you make money?
Shareholders: Ye—yeah.
Pharma CEO: Through governments that wish to implement this treatment through their health care systems.
Shareholders: So there’s no market in the States?
Pharma CEO: Not necessarily. I mean, I can afford it.


I seem to remember a case about five years ago, in which a patient was cured, or at least went into remission, after researchers grew massive amounts of his T cells in the lab, and then injected them back into him. This may be something similar, possibly more sophisticated.

Incidentally, if anyone is wondering about the “Carcinoma Angels” tag, I just found the entire Norman Spinrad short story online.


I wish I could find that more encouraging, but I don’t. I have this terrible fear this is going to be one of those, “Wow, it’s amazing… if you’re one of the 1-in-10,000 cancer patients who can benefit from this” situations.


A really expensive treatment could be the precursor to a common, affordable treatment years down the line. Maybe?

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Interesting development; here’s hoping it can be further developed to be a viable process. (also, yeah, fuck cancer. I lost family to that.)

As a fan of William Coley, I approve. :slight_smile:

I do wonder about the “cured” in quotes in the title. I am at a loss to explain Cory’s distrust of immunotherapy.

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