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Cell therapy hope for blood cancer

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A new treatment offering hope to organ transplant patients who go on to develop blood cancer has been developed by scientists.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh grew special white blood cells - known as T Cells - in the laboratory, later using them to treat people with a type of cancer known as post-transplant lymphoproliferative disease (PTLD).

The cells, which patrol the body hunting for and destroying viruses, were given to 33 PTLD patients who had not responded to standard treatment, with around half showing positive results after six months. In all, 90% of those who responded remained cancer-free for between four and nine years.

PTLD is associated with the Epstein-Barr virus, a form of herpes that is carried by more than 90% of the population.

While it is generally harmless, the virus can cause tumours in transplant patients because their immune systems have been deliberately compromised by drugs designed to prevent rejection of the new organ.

Around one in 10 people who receive a new organ go on to develop the cancer, with the disease proving fatal in 50% of cases.

Click here to see the report published in the journal Transplantation.

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