Don’t get your hopes too high.
That’s the message some medical experts are giving to patients after a report circulated this weekend about a new cancer treatment with results labeled as “spectacular” in some corners.
The news spread after a researcher discussed the results of the treatment at a meeting on Sunday of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington, D.C.
However, experts noted the research hasn’t been published or reviewed by peers yet.
Dr. Otis W. Brawley, the chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, said while the research seems promising, the optimism over the treatment can be detrimental to cancer patients who are desperate for a cure.
“A lot of patients’ hopes can get raised,” Brawley told Healthline. “There is a scientific process and we should let that process play out.”
Brawley said he has seen unwarranted euphoria over cancer treatment trials a half-dozen times in his 30 years in the medical field.
He said researchers sometimes get too pumped up over the results of a clinical trial.
“They can get excited,” he said. “That’s understandable because they want to cure cancer, too.”
The Results of the Research
Professor Stanley Riddell of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle told the AAAS gathering that his team used so-called killer T cells in their experiments, according to a report on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).
The cells were taken from the immune systems of dozens of patients whose blood cancer had been resistant to a number of treatments, including chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants. Many were given two to five months to live.
Riddell said the researchers modified the T cells with a new targeting mechanism. They let the cells multiply in the lab and then re-introduced them into the patients to attack infected cancerous tissues.
The researchers reported the new immune system therapy eliminated all symptoms in 94 percent of participants with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
It also alleviated symptoms in 80 percent of patients with other blood cancers.
Riddell told the conference that “the early data is unprecedented.”
However, the BBC reported that seven patients ended up in intensive care because they had severe immune system reactions. Two of those patients died.
Riddell did say more research and trials are needed.
Treatment and Prevention
Experts pointed out the new treatment was only tried on people with certain blood cancers, according to a story in The Guardian.
They also wanted to see how the treatment would work on tumors and if the cancer returns in any of the study’s patients. They noted cancer cells can sometimes hide from immune system attackers.
Brawley noted there is reason for optimism, especially with all the advances made in cancer treatments the past year or two.
However, he still urged people to be cautious of hoping for a cancer cure around the corner.
Brawley said it’s also important for people to focus on cancer prevention.
Not smoking, drinking only moderate amounts of alcohol, and eating nutritious foods are all ways to prevent the deadly disease. Regular cancer screenings can also help catch it in its early stages.
If you don’t get cancer, you won’t have to worry if a new cancer treatment is successful or not.