New leukemia treatment shows promising results

The treatment genetically modifies a patient's immune cells to fight cancer.

One patient who was extremely sick received the treatment and all traces of his leukemia were gone within eight days.

Kevin Weston is fighting a rare type of leukemia, but he's optimistic about this new treatment. "The fact that this is happening can only make you happier for other people and gives me hope as well," he said.

The treatment works like this: the T-cells are taken from a person's blood, scientists then introduce a virus, and genetically engineer these cells. The reprogrammed T-cells are then put back in the body and are able to identify and then kill B-cells targeted by leukemia.

"These patients all had B-cell leukemia or Acute lymphoblastic leukemia. It can be very deadly in adults, they failed other treatment. This treatment was given and in a matter of days it wiped out all the remaining cancer cells," said ABC News chief health and medical editor Richard Besser, M.D.

The treatment is experimental and has been used in only five people. Three of the patients are now in remission and the other two died. Those who survived the treatment went on to have bone marrow transplants.

"Patients who have A.L.L., adults who have this disease, if they are not in complete remission at the time of the bone marrow transplant, it fails. You need to be in complete remission to have success," Besser said.

Last February, Weston participated in a bone marrow drive. His online campaign is geared toward pushing more African Americans to register as donors.

Unfortunately, this treatment will not help Weston because the type of leukemia he has attacks his T-cells. Still, he and his wife, Leteefah Simon, agree that the prospects for a cure are encouraging.

"Hopefully another wife will not have to go through what we are going through. We are also lucky that we have an amazing, amazing medical team and there is super hope for Kevin," Simon said.

Weston is waiting for a bone marrow transplant which gives him the best odds of survival.

Researchers say that a relapse is possible for those who received the treatment, but they'll have to wait and see.

The cell therapy was published in the Journal Science Translational Medicine.

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