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Scientists discover how to change human leukemia cells into harmless immune cells, research at Stanford Medicine

Stashed in: Science!, Stanford, Medicine, Cancer, Immunotherapy

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Reddit comment from one of the lead authors on the paper:

Hi Folks, I’m Chris Dove, one of the lead authors of this paper. Proof. I’m normally not much of a redditor, but I thought I would step in and give my two cents on the discussion.

Most of what the life scientists ITT have said about the paper is generally true (at the time that I’m writing). They’ve correctly identified the primary strength of this paper being the use of “primary” cells. These are cells that came right out of a cancer patient’s arm, and are about as close as we can get to real cancer. I'm glad the paper has been generating some discussion, and wanted to give a (brief) author's perspective on some of the main questions.

Re: Is this something that we’ll never hear from again? Many ideas for cancer therapies fail — and they should. We hope they fail sooner rather than later because that means fewer lives are put at risk and we don’t want to waste time and public money on therapies with limited potential. Glancing through the science subreddit I see a lot of things that could be one-hit wonders, but many others with results that may be validated, expanded, and translated to the clinic. It is my genuine hope that this study falls into the second category.

Re: Then what does this study mean? Take this study for what it is—preclinical data. A layman’s one-sentence summary of the paper might read: “We put signaling molecules on the outside of some leukemia cells, and this told the inside of the cell to stop behaving like cancer and start behaving like a useful immune cell.”

If I had a drug that was able to replicate the reprogramming effect today (I don’t), we’re still years and years away from full approval by the FDA. But that’s how science works. Often discoveries that were made in the past only come to clinical fruition decades after their initial report. I’d like to push this therapy as a real strategy, and we’ll see in the coming years whether I (and others) can generate the data to make that happen.

To those of you who have been personally affected by cancer, my heart goes out to you. Unfortunately we will never have a magic drug that cures all cancers, but we are whittling away every day. This is, without a doubt, the most exciting time in history to be part of cancer therapy development, purely because we have more and more solutions to offer patients. Anyway I hope that was a bit insightful—I’m headed back to the bench.

PS: The lion’s share of the credit for this paper goes to Scott, who started this project some years ago. Scott says hi.

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