Healthy Living

New Clinical Trial: Genetically Enhanced Immune Cells for Lymphoma Treatment

New Clinical Trial: Genetically Enhanced Immune Cells for Lymphoma Treatment

B-cell cancers, or cancers that target B-lymphocytes, have been particularly hard to treat in recent years. Recent breakthroughs have led to the conclusion that B-cell cancer can be effectively combated with the use of programmed immune cells.

How it Works

The immune system creates cells that are able to recognize and eliminate any abnormal or unusual cells found in the body. These are normally referred to as natural killer cells. Unlike other immune cells called T-cells, natural killers are programmed to find any stressed or abnormal cell (whereas T-cells always have a target and remember that target forever). Natural killer cells are very effective when dealing with most illnesses, but they have proven to be relatively ineffective in dealing with cancer. The problem with natural killer cells is that they have a relatively short lifespan, and don't exist long enough to chase down evasive cancer cells. They also tend to be targeting multiple things at a time, which becomes problematic since cancer is often the hardest cell to eliminate. The ineffectiveness of natural killer cells makes it very hard for the immune system to fight off any sort of caner cells.

Researchers have recently discovered that these immune cells can be collected and reprogrammed to target specific types of cells, especially those containing the CD19 protein. The CD19 protein is an indicator and cause of lymphoma, leukemia, and other types of cancer. By creating these modified killer cells, researchers hope that the body will be able to fight off CD19 even more effectively, leading to a greater efficacy in cancer treatments across the globe.

The Study

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin MD Anderson Cancer Center studied these modified immune cells. As mentioned above, regular natural killer cells are too short lived to deal with cancer. However, research has found that the killer cells found in umbilical cords are actually predisposed to focusing on B-cell malignancies and B-cell cancer. As an added bonus, these cells combine with interleukin-15 to last much longer than most natural killer cells. Genetic engineering also increases the persistence of the immune cells, and even implants a suicide trigger that shuts down the cells if they begin to cause severe inflammation (also known as cytokine release syndrome).

Clinicians used animal specimens that were infected with different types of B-cell cancers. The modified killer cells performed much better than regular killing cells during testing, and the animals lasted much longer as a result. The modified killers also eliminated a much larger amount of cancer cells from the bloodstream.

More trials have suggested that regular modified natural killers are not as efficient as those specifically from umbilical cord blood. This means that in order for this treatment to be effective, the natural killer cells need to be taken from umbilical cords before they are modified.

Another factor researchers had to consider was the prevalence of graft versus host disease. Normally, T-cells are used and combined with chimaric antigen receptors (CAR) in order to target CD19. These T-cells also have to be matched from a donor, since unmatched T-cells could attack a recipient's healthy tissue (graft versus host disease). NK cells derived from the umbilical cord do not cause graft versus host disease, which means they do not have to be matched. This saves a lot of time and effort in administering the treatment and doesn't hinder the overall quality of the treatment. The normal trade-off between the use of T-cells and NK cells is that T-cells tend to target specific things at a much higher rate. However, cord blood NK cells act in a similar manner to T-cells in that they target B-cell cancers, and do not have match from donor to recipient.


This study gives researchers hope that NK cells can start being used to fight off B-cell cancers. With this newfound ability to program NK cells, researchers might also be able to program them to seek out other types of cancer cells and malignancies. The biggest issue with this treatment in particular is that it requires NK cells taken from the umbilical cord. The MD Anderson Cancer Center had already built up a sizeable umbilical cord collection from births across the Houston area, and so had a much easier time finding these cells. In some areas there may simply not be the manpower or technology to collect enough umbilical cords to treat the amount of cancer patients. Still, this could be rectified over time if umbilical cords are continually collected by the MD Anderson Cancer Center and other hospitals.

Natural Remedies For Cancer-Related Symptoms

The above study is great news for those suffering from B-cell cancer and other malignancies, but this treatment will not be available in quite some time. Unfortunately, there is no known cure for cancer yet, and anyone claiming to have a "natural cure" for cancer might be deceiving you. There are however some ways that you can lessen the effects of cancer, which will help you during treatment and could even allow you to do some normal activities.

Below are a few natural remedies for cancer symptoms:

  1. Acupuncture - Studies have shown that this ancient form of physical therapy (involving needles being inserted into the body) can reduce the side effects patients feel when going through chemotherapy. Acupuncture lessens nausea, vomiting, and pain when implemented alongside a regular chemical treatment.
  2. Dandelion Extract - A strange but effective treatment, patients taking dandelion extract have shown a strengthening of the immune system, reduction in cytokine release syndrome (severe inflammation) and the ability to cleanse internal organs of toxins. Talk to your doctor before trying this remedy, as it can react poorly with certain medications. It can be taken in pill, tea, or liquid form.
  3. Aromatherapy - One of the biggest effects that cancer can have on a patient is psychological stress and anxiety. Having to worry about your health, medical costs, and therapy can really add up and overwhelm the patient. That's why it is important to find ways to de-stress when you are treating any form of cancer. Aromatherapy has been shown to be particularly effective in calming patients and leading them towards a state of serenity. Use of essential oils such as chamomile, geranium, lavender, and cedarwood can relieve patients and raise their spirits. Studies have shown that stronger mental health helps the body fight off cancer cells more effectively

Important Note: To reiterate, none of these treatment options can replace chemotherapy or other pharmaceutical treatments. While these may reduce symptoms and make you feel stronger and healthier, they will ultimately do nothing to eliminate cancer cells from the body. You should not use any of these (or other) natural remedies as a substitute for treatment recommended by your doctor. These treatments should supplement your medical treatment. Also remember to always discuss ways to remedy cancer symptoms with your doctor, as they may have other techniques that are more suitable for your condition.

Final Thoughts

Although the requirement of having cord blood makes this treatment harder to obtain, research done by the MD Anderson Cancer Center suggests that immune cells can indeed be reprogrammed to target certain cancers. This could lead to other breakthroughs in genetically modifying cells to target different types of terminal illnesses, and is a great contribution in the field of cancer treatment. Make sure to check out the rest of our website for more articles and medical information.