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Last Updated: Friday, 8 April, 2005, 11:01 GMT 12:01 UK
Cure for cancers 'in five years'
Christie Hospital, Manchester
The hospital is appealing for donations to fund the research
Scientists in Manchester say a cure for all types of cancer could be available on the NHS within five years.

The world's first patient trials in a technique which genetically engineers cells will take place at the city's Christie Hospital later this year.

The treatment - gene-modified t-cell therapy - could replace more intrusive treatments like chemotherapy.

The cells are fitted with a "tracker" device to kill cancer cells before being injected back into the patient.

Professor Robert Hawkins, clinical director of Medical oncology at the hospital, says the initial results of lab tests have been "spectacular".

In the lab we have seen spectacular results in lung tumours and in the brain. It's remarkable
Professor Robert Hawkins

More traditional treatments like radiotherapy and chemotherapy destroy both healthy and cancerous cells.

The new system makes the body naturally seek out and kill tumours by boosting the infection-fighting t-cells.

The body does not naturally have enough of these cells to combat huge tumours, and cancer cells often develop protective mechanisms to avoid them being recognised by the body as a disease.

Doctors will take blood samples from cancer patients to extract t-cells. They then genetically modify the t-cells, attaching an antibody which works like a tracking device to enable the t-cells to zone in on cancer tumours.

The t-cells are then multiplied a thousand-fold over a two-week period and injected back into the patient's body.

Professor Hawkins is appealing for funds to build a lab to genetically engineer t-cells, so that the treatment can be available for patients that cancer drugs, chemotherapy and radiotherapy have already failed.

Star's appeal

He said: "In the lab we have seen spectacular results in lung tumours and in the brain. It's remarkable.

"Given as an injection, it could get rid of a widespread range of tumours."

About 250,000 is needed through the Christie Appeal to pay for nurses with specialist training, research doctors and equipment.

Earlier this week, the hospital launched a new fundraising appeal backed by BBC One's Dr Who star, Christopher Eccleston, who was born in Salford.

Those wanting to give to the Christie Appeal can call the 24-hour donation line on 0800 1954321.


SEE ALSO:
When will we beat cancer?
09 Feb 05 |  Magazine
Hospital averts cash crisis
22 May 03 |  Manchester


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