Clinical trials set to test new cancer treatment

In collaboration with the Press Association

A new cancer treatment based on white blood cells called granulocytes is to be tested on humans in a phase II clinical trial at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Centre in the US.

The treatment, which has previously been shown to eliminate 100 per cent of tumours in mice with advanced cancer, involves removing 'cancer killing' granulocytes from healthy donors and injecting them into people with advanced cancer to bolster their immune response.

Lead researcher Dr Zheng Cui, associate professor of pathology, revealed: "In mice, we've been able to eradicate even highly aggressive forms of malignancy with extremely large tumours.

"Hopefully, we will see the same results in humans. Our laboratory studies indicate that this cancer-fighting ability is even stronger in healthy humans."

Dr Cui is due to announce the study at the Understanding Aging conference in Los Angeles on June 28th. The team are recruiting 100 donors aged 50 years or under who will be selected according to the high cancer-killing ability of their white blood cells.

A sample of their granulocytes will be removed, and injected into 22 people with advanced cancer that is not responding to existing treatments.

Researchers are confident about the treatment - which they are calling Leukocyte InFusion Therapy (LIFT) - as it has already proven effective in laboratory tests involving human samples of cervical, prostate and breast cancer cells.

Researcher Dr Mark Willingham, professor of pathology, commented: "If the study is effective, it would be another arrow in the quiver of treatments aimed at cancer. It is based on ten years of work since the cancer-resistant mouse was first discovered."

Scientists are initially aiming to determine whether the treatment is effective in humans. If so, they will then seek to find out whether the treatment works better in some forms of cancer than others.