Researchers are investigating if a type of white blood cell that supports the immune system can be used to fight cancer.
The study of Natural Killer (NK) cells are being studied at the University of Nebraska Medical Center focuses to see if they can treat Multiple Myeloma, an incurable form of cancer. It's a cancer that forms in the blood cells and found in the bone marrow.
Treatment usually involves a bone marrow transplant followed by chemotherapy. Now doctors are adding NK cells to the fight.
Unlike stem cells, NK cells cannot be taken from the patient and re-implanted because cancer has made them defective. So far in the clinical trials, the NK cells are being collected from healthy donors or grown in a laboratory from umbilical cord blood cells. And in the fight against Multiple Myeloma, studies are showing a positive response rate in patients.
"From my perspective, it's not an A-plus score, but an A. I think the transplant accomplished what we hoped it would accomplish," says Dr. Sarah Holstein, an Oncologist leading the trial at UNMC.
Dr. Holstein calls it an off-the-shelf treatment because patients don't always have to wait for an NK cell donor. She says NK cells are helping to reset the immune system, but now it's a matter of dialing in the right application for the NK cells so they can kill any of the remaining Myeloma. The purpose of the clinical trial is to figure out the best time to introduce the NK cells after the chemotherapy and bone marrow transplant so that the can have optimal success.
"I am optimistic that this will be one of the tools in our chest that we can use moving forward to really harness the power of the immune system to help fight cancer," Dr. Holstein said.
More information on the study at this link.