In a strategy that combines two of the hottest ideas in cancer research, scientists at the National Institutes of Health said they successfully attacked a woman's disease by using her immune system to home in on genetic mutations unique to her tumors.
The findings, published Thursday by the journal Science, come from just one patient—a 45-year-old woman in Montana. But researchers said her case, in which she received billions of immune cells specially grown to target her tumors, amounts to evidence the technique may be a way to treat many common cancers now considered difficult to target with the immune system.
So-called immunotherapy has so far shown the most promise in relatively rare cancers such as melanoma and kidney cancers.
This new approach "represents the blueprint for making immunotherapy available to treat common cancers," said Steven A. Rosenberg, chief of the Surgery Branch at the National Cancer Institute's Center for Cancer Research and senior author of the study. "We've figured out a way to target what is absolutely unique on each cancer. That is the mutations that make the cancer a cancer."