University of California San Francisco
Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

New Cancer Treatment Uses Patients' Altered Cells To Fight Disease

By Betty Yu | CBS SF Bay Area | May 10, 2018

New Cancer Treatment Uses Patients' Altered Cells To Fight Disease

> This story originally appeared on KPIX5. Watch the video broadcast here.

(KPIX 5) — A revolutionary, one-time treatment is giving new hope to cancer patients by treating them with their own immune cells that have been altered in a lab to become cancer killers.

The new treatment, known as CAR (Chimeric Antigen Receptor) T, is a type of immunotherapy that is showing surprising success in at least one Bay Area patient who has battled cancer for more than 20 years.

Jackie Pichon was first diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma when she was 37. “I’ve lost my hair so many times it’s hard to remember,” Pichon said.

The 61-year-old Concord resident does remember when her cancer turned more aggressive – into large B-cell lymphoma – and her doctors ran out of options. They sent her to a specialist at University of California, San Francisco, but chemotherapy there didn’t work.

“So when CAR T came into the picture with Dr. Andreadis, he said, ‘We’re going to try this next and we’re going to keep our fingers crossed,'” said Pichon. “And God willing, it worked.”

CAR T is a new treatment where some of the patient’s own immune cells, called T-cells, are removed and reprogrammed by scientists in a lab to fight cancer. Those cells are then put back into the patient.

“This technology actually rewrites the cell’s genetic code, the T-cell code, so it actually can recognize and kill a lymphoma cell,” said UCSF Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine Dr. Babis Andreadis. “It’s almost like a sci-fi work of fiction to try and make these cells, and it’s completely out of the realm of every other therapy we’ve ever done, not only for cancer, but for any other medical ailment.”

Read more at CBS SF Bay Area