How gene therapy could cure cancer

Source: The post is based on the article “How gene therapy could cure cancerpublished in The Hindu on 15th December 2022

What is the News?

Scientists in the United Kingdom have tested a new form of experimental gene therapy technique called Base Editing to create cancer in a teenage girl.

About T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (T-ALL)

The was suffering from a blood cancer known as T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (T-ALL). 

In this form of blood cancer, the T-cells, which are a class of white blood cells, equipped to hunt and neutralize threats to the body, turn against the body and end up destroying healthy cells that normally help with immunity. 

What is ‘base editing?’

A person’s genetic code is several permutations of four bases: Adenine (A), Guanin (G), cytosine (C) and thymine (T). 

Sequences of these bases, akin to letters in the alphabet, spell out genes that are instructions to produce the wide array of proteins necessary for the body’s functions. 

In the girl’s case, her T-cells — perhaps because of a mis-arrangement in the sequence of bases — had become cancerous. A way to correct this mis-arrangement could mean a healthier immune system. 

How did base-editing work?
Read here: What is base editing, the groundbreaking tech that cleared a teenager’s cancer?

After spending a month in remission, she was given a second donor transplant to regrow her immune system which would contain healthy T-cells.

How effective was the treatment?

It has been 1.5 years since she was first diagnosed with the disease and whether the treatment has reliably and entirely fixed her immune system, remains to be established.

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