New Leukemia Treatment Has Stunning Success Rate
90% of last-ditch patients went into remission
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 16, 2014 5:06 AM CDT
Updated Oct 16, 2014 6:32 AM CDT
This microscopy image shows immune system T-cells, center, binding to beads that cause the cells to divide.   (AP Photo/Dr. Carl June)

(Newser) – An experimental therapy labeled the "holy grail" of cancer treatment a few years ago has produced amazing results in a group of leukemia patients who had been given a few months or even a few weeks to live, researchers say. Some 30 patients with an acute form of leukemia were given the treatment, which "trains" a patient's immune cells to kill rogue cells and spawn more cancer-killing cells. Of those, all but three went into remission, and 23 were still alive six months or more later. Multiple other treatments had failed in the five adults and 25 children and young adults who received the treatment. Seven of those who got the treatment have since died, but 19 are still cancer-free, including 15 who have had no other treatment, reports the New York Times.

"We're astonished how well it turned out," a researcher at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia tells Reuters, which notes that a 3% improvement in the remission rate is considered a success for a new therapy, while this one achieved a stunning 90%. "In our wildest dreams, we didn't think it would work as well as it did for the patients we've treated so far." The treatment has its drawbacks—serious side effects put eight of the patients in intensive care, reports Bloomberg—but researchers say the latest trial proves early successes were no fluke and that the treatment holds promise for fighting other kinds of cancer. (Another experimental cancer treatment involves bee venom.)