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THAI researchers have announced the first successful step towards the prevention of cancer relapsing in high-risk leukaemia patients.
The first patient in their research project, which involves deploying natural killer cells, has demonstrated a clear, satisfactory response.
“One year after receiving the natural killer cells from her elder sister, there is no sign of a cancer relapse in her,” Asst Professor Dr Udomsak Bunworasate from Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Medicine said yesterday.
Launched last year, the project also had four other participants, whose health conditions are being monitored. The latest participant was given natural killer cells two months ago.
Dr Koramit Suppipat, who heads the research on cell therapy for cancer patients at the faculty, explained that natural killer cells are present in human bodies and were crucial to the immune system.
“They normally account for between five and 10 per cent of white blood cells,” he said, “These cells have the ability to detect and destroy abnormal cells before they form tumours and cancer.”
He said his institute had in 2014 initiated the project to research and develop a way to treat leukaemia among high-risk groups with natural killer cells, thanks to funding from the Thailand Centre of Excellence for Life Science (TCELS).
Last year, with more funds from other units, his team could start the pilot research project to conduct clinical trials using natural killer cells from donors on a high-risk group of acute myeloid leukaemia patients.
Udomsak said all five patients in the project faced the prospects of cancer relapsing, after being treated and cured, and did not respond positively to standard treatment choices – not even bone-marrow transplantation – anymore.
Koramit said to date his institute had successfully maintained the level of natural killer cells for the treatments of patients in the project.
“This project will continue,” he said.
Professor Dr Suttipong Wacharasindhu, dean of the Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Medicine, said cancer was the biggest killer in Thailand since 1999.
“This is the reason why we are committed to developing comprehensive cancer treatments,” he said.
TCELS deputy director Sirasak Teparkum said more than 10,000 Thais died of cancer each year.
“It should be noted that cancer can relapse for people who have already recovered from cancer,” he said.
According to him, TCELS has constantly supported research that seeks to develop new treatment methods for cancer and also various other diseases.
“Now, we are working with more than 200 researchers,” Sirasak said.