Updated Sat. Jun. 28 2008 3:30 PM ET
CTV.ca News Staff
American researchers will soon start a human trial to determine whether a treatment that can eradicate cancer in mice will do the same in people.
The treatment will transfuse specific white blood cells, called granulocytes, into patients with advanced forms of cancer. The granulocytes will come from healthy young people with immune systems that produce cells that have high levels of anti-cancer activity.
In the animal studies, white blood cells from cancer-resistant mice cured all lab mice who had malignant tumours. The cells have also been able to kill cervical, prostate and breast cancer tumour cells in Petri dish tests.
"All the mice we treated were 100 per cent cured," lead researcher Dr. Zheng Cui told CTV News. "So that was very surprising for us."
Cui, an associate professor of pathology at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina, will announce the study Saturday at the Understanding Aging conference in Los Angeles.
Granulocytes account for about 60 per cent of all white blood cells in the human body. The scientists already know, via a small study of human volunteers, that granulocytes from people under the age of 50 are most effective at killing cancer cells.
The study will begin with 22 cancer patients for whom conventional treatment has been unsuccessful. The researchers say that they will know within three months if the treatment will work in humans.
Cancer researchers worldwide will be watching the tests closely.
"Certainly in the mouse, being able to do these things is quite remarkable and very exciting," said Dr. Ronan Foley of the Juravinski Cancer Centre in Hamilton, Ont. "Oftentimes when it is translated into the human situation it doesn't work as well. But that doesn't mean it isn't going to work."
With a report from CTV medical correspondent Avis Favaro and senior producer Elizabeth St. Philip