ASCO Logo Metastatic melanoma and metastatic synovial cell sarcoma patients can now be treated by a novel form of personalized therapy, thanks to the following discovery. Investigators have developed an immune system-based gene therapy for combating metastatic melanoma and sarcoma. The introduced treatment seems to genetically engineer a patient’s own anti-tumor immune cells to tackle tumors and fight several types of cancers.

The newly fabricated technique known as adoptive immunotherapy probably makes the body’s immune system tackle cancer. In this process the immune cells called T lymphocytes are removed, modified, expanded in large numbers and given back to the patient. So the genetically engineered T cell lymphocytes supposedly express receptors directed against a specific antigen on the cancer cell. The study registered response rates of 45 percent and 67 percent in malignant melanoma and synovial cell sarcoma patients, respectively.

“We believe that this approach of adoptive immunotherapy is the most effective means for using the body’s immune system to combat cancer,” quoted senior study author Steven A. Rosenberg, MD, PhD, chief of the surgery branch at the National Cancer Institute. “This paper represents the first time that adoptive immunotherapy using genetically modified cells has been successfully used to treat a solid cancer other than melanoma because we are targeting an antigen present on many types of cancer.”

At the time of the study, 17 patients with treatment-resistant metastatic melanoma or metastatic synovial cell sarcoma were made to undergo a therapy with their own immune T cells. Scientists claim to have genetically engineered the cells to express a T cell receptor that recognized the NY-ESO-1 cancer-testes antigen on cancer cells. One quarter to one third of common epithelial cancers assumingly express NY-ESO-1, namely those of the breast, kidney, esophagus and 80 percent of synovial cell sarcoma.

Four out of six patients representing 67 percent diagnosed with synovial cell sarcoma and five of 11 forming 45 percent with melanoma apparently had measurable tumor regression. Two melanoma patients were registered with complete regression that lasted for more than a year. It was mentioned that the treatments seemingly resulted in minimal toxicity. Since this therapy appears effective for synovial cell sarcoma patients, it may also be beneficial for patients suffering from other cancers as well.

The study was published online on January 31, 2011, in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.