Thanks to a gene-editing therapy developed by a team of European researchers, two infants have been rescued from a previously incurable form a leukemia, according to IFLScience.com. A report in Science Translational Medicine documents the treatment which involved genetically engineering white blood cells to give them the ability to target cancerous cells. The result: the two girls have remained cancer-free for 18 and 12 months.
According to the team, "molecular remissions were achieved with 28 days in both infants" with no signs at present of the acute lymphocytic leukemia they were initially diagnosed with. While this technique isn't necessarily new, this is the first time white blood cells were taken from healthy donors and then engineered to target the cancer cells in the infants. Extremely young children have a low white blood cell count to begin with, so removing any more could dangerously weaken their immune systems. While the first patient did exhibit a bad immune reaction to the treatment two months after it took place, but after a round of steroids and a bone marrow transplant, the patient is doing well.
The researchers are hopeful that this technique will become a "truly 'universal' therapy" - meaning it would work on patients, regardless of age or relative immune system strength.