A team of Australian doctors has been quietly working on what they believe could be a revolutionary cure for cancer.
According to lead scientist Dr Ken Micklethwaite, the new treatment searches for those cancer cells which can’t be detected by the immune system.
After the cancer cells are traced, they’re destroyed by CAR T cells – a type of modified immune cells.
Speaking to 60 Minutes Australia, Dr Micklethwaite said: ‘We take immune cells that are unable to see cancer, we insert a gene in them that enables them to actually see and then respond to and kill cancer cells.’
In contrast to traditional chemo and radiation treatments, this new treatment comprises of just a single injection of the modified immune cells.
The treatment has recently been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, and it has been used in the US with a 70 to 80 per cent success rate.
However, its cost is astronomically high, at around half a million dollars for one treatment.
Dr. Micklethwaite has been working with his team in Australia to find a new method of producing CAR T cells, which can cut down the price to a measly $10,000 per dose.
After a patient receives the treatment, its success or failure can be determined in about thirty days.
Fortunately, the first patient to receive the new treatment has shown an incredible recovery.
Todd O’Shea, 19, had little to no chances of survival due to his aggressive leukemia and severe lung infection. Todd’s cancer couldn’t be cured by chemotherapy and even by bone marrow transplants.
‘I was terrified, I thought I was going to die, I was bawling my eyes out for days on end, just not knowing what to do,’ the teenager told 60 Minutes.
However, his cancer is in complete remission now – thanks to the revolutionary treatment with the CAR T cells which cured the teen in just months.
As of now, the new treatment is effective only against blood cancers, but the team hopes to extend it to cure other cancer types such as breast or lung cancer.
‘My goal would be… for us to be able to say to people, ‘we’ve given you this treatment and you are cured,’ Dr Micklethwaite said.