Published: 06-11-2015 14:28 | Updated: 06-11-2015 15:03

New method for cell therapy - first patient treated

For more than ten years Evren Alici and his research group at HERM studied the body's NK cells with the purpose of using them in treatment of bone marrow cancer. Recently the first patient was treated.

In November 2014 Pia Elgström sought treatment for a sore foot and shoulder. After blood samples it was found that Pia had multiple myeloma, a type of bone marrow cancer. Pia was asked if she wanted participate in a study on cell therapy where the objective was to prolong the life of patients with multiple myeloma. Pia did not hesitate.

- I put aside all my doubts and said yes immediately. I saw it as my chance to continue living. It also felt good to do something for future patients with the same diagnosis, says Pia Elgström.

Evren Alici and his research group at HERM have for more than ten years studied NK cells, which are the body’s own cells (a type of white blood cells) with the ability to kill cancer cells. NK cells is taken from the patient and manipulated to become more effective in killing cancer cells. When the cells achieved the desired effect, often after about three weeks, they freeze them down and then injected back into the patient.

Hareth Nahi is physician and Associate Professor at HERM and clinically responsible for the study.

- First the patient goes through a bone marrow transplant and after that cell therapy to remove remaining cancer cells. In this way we hope to reduce the risk of relapse, says Hareth who was the physician who treated Pia.

The study is a Phase 1 study, which means it is the first time it is tested on humans. Pia Elgström was the first of the twelve patients participating in the study to receive treatment. In July she went home after undergoing a bone marrow transplant and after that cell therapy on three occasions in one week intervals.

- We can see that Pia responded well to the treatment and that the side effects have been relatively small. This is because we use the body's own cells and not chemicals, says Hareth.

This autumn Hareth and Evren have three patients scheduled for treatment and if they also respond well to the cell therapy they gets closer to get the treatment approved by Medical Products Agency (Läkemedelsverket).

- In a few years we hope to be able to use cell therapy as an adjunct to bone marrow cancer and also other types of cancer, for instance liver cancer, says Hareth Nahi.