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CURE FOR LEUKAEMIA IS CLOSER SAY DOCS; New hope for cancer victims.

Byline: JILL PALMER

INJECTIONS that destroy leukaemia cells could bring new hope to sufferers.

And scientists hope their breakthrough - creating an artificial immune cell - could also help victims of breast and lung cancer, the most deadly forms of the disease.

The artificial cells seek and destroy leukaemia cells in the body, and docs hope to inject victims with them.

Trials will start in the next two years and the treatment could become routine within 10 years.

Leukaemia sufferer Johanna MacVicar, 23 - one of the 18,000 people diagnosed with the disease in Britain each year - welcomed news of the breakthrough.

Johanna, of Bishopton, near Glasgow, needs a bone marrow transplant to save her life.

She said: "I try not to get too excited when I read about discoveries because they might not be suited to me and they can take years to develop.

"This new discovery might not help me, but it could help hundreds of others."

Johanna has become a fundraiser for research and even talked superstar Robbie Williams into becoming a bone marrow donor when she met him at a concert in Glasgow.

The discovery is the result of six years' work at London's Hammersmith Hospital and Imperial College School of Medicine.

The team identified a single gene (WT-1) in cells that cause leukaemia.

The next step was to develop artificially engineered immune cells which could recognise the WT-1 label on cancer cells and destroy them.

At the same time, they ignore normal cells of the same type.

Team leader Dr Hans Strauss said: "The principle can be applied to almost all forms of leukaemia and could signal a huge step forward in how we treat the disease.

"What makes this work even more exciting is that our findings can also be applied to solid cancers such as breast or lung cancer, where there is a similar over-expression of WT-1.

"The possibilities for new treatments are enormous."

The first patients to try out the new treatment will be at Hammersmith.

Leukaemia Research Fund scientific director Dr David Grant said: "This could well be the chink in the armour of cancer for which doctors have been looking."
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jan 15, 2001
Words:358
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