Cancer-Hunting 'T Cells' Used in Pioneering New Treatment

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Research associate Sarah Wright uses a machine to help separate different strands of DNA at a lab at City of Hope in Duarte, California.  (Sanden Totten/KPCC)

City of Hope hospital and research center in Duarte (Los Angeles County) is pioneering a new way to treat cancer that involves genetically modifying a patient’s own immune system so it can better detect and attack tumors.

Clinical trials are still in early stages, but the approach is catching on and could be a big step forward for the field.

Patient Cherie Payne was part of an experimental study to test the procedure. She was diagnosed with a rare blood cancer known as mantle cell lymphoma in the summer of 2013. By the time doctors discovered it, the cancer had spread to 60 percent of her bone marrow.

At first, she panicked. But the 63-year-old native Angeleno quickly changed her perspective.


Payne worked for years as a project manager at the Screen Actors Guild pension and health plan, so she was use to tackling tough problems.

"I think my project management just kicked in," she recalled. "What do I need to (do), how long is it going to take, what should I expect? I just had to lay it all out."

Using referrals, message boards and an uncanny ability to schedule her life even in turmoil, Payne found City of Hope in fall 2013.

She signed up for an experimental trial that involved modifying a key part of the immune system called a T Cell.

Read the full story via KPCC