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Dec 12, 2022

Teenager’s Incurable Cancer Cleared With Revolutionary DNA-Editing Technique

This is perhaps the most exciting news of our time. Thanks to DNA, lives are not only being saved, but also significantly extended. From the BBC News:

A teenage girl’s incurable cancer has been cleared from her body,” reports the BBC, “in the first use of a revolutionary new type of medicine….”Doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital used “base editing” to perform a feat of biological engineering to build her a new living drug. Six months later the cancer is undetectable, but Alyssa is still being monitored in case it comes back.

Alyssa, who is 13 and from Leicester, was diagnosed with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in May last year…. Her cancer was aggressive. Chemotherapy, and then a bone-marrow transplant, were unable to rid it from her body…. The team at Great Ormond Street used a technology called base editing, which was invented only six years ago [which] allows scientists to zoom to a precise part of the genetic code and then alter the molecular structure of just one base, converting it into another and changing the genetic instructions. The large team of doctors and scientists used this tool to engineer a new type of T-cell that was capable of hunting down and killing Alyssa’s cancerous T-cells….

After a month, Alyssa was in remission and was given a second bone-marrow transplant to regrow her immune system…. Alyssa is just the first of 10 people to be given the drug as part of a clinical trial.

Alyssa, who is 13 and from Leicester, was diagnosed with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in May last year…. Her cancer was aggressive. Chemotherapy, and then a bone-marrow transplant, were unable to rid it from her body…. The team at Great Ormond Street used a technology called base editing, which was invented only six years ago [which] allows scientists to zoom to a precise part of the genetic code and then alter the molecular structure of just one base, converting it into another and changing the genetic instructions. The large team of doctors and scientists used this tool to engineer a new type of T-cell that was capable of hunting down and killing Alyssa’s cancerous T-cells….

After a month, Alyssa was in remission and was given a second bone-marrow transplant to regrow her immune system…. Alyssa is just the first of 10 people to be given the drug as part of a clinical trial.

Her mother said that a year ago she’d been dreading Christmas, “thinking this is our last with her”. But it wasn’t.

And the BBC adds that applying the technology to cancer “only scratches the surface of what base editing could achieve…. There are already trials of base editing under way in sickle-cell disease, as well as high cholesterol that runs in families and the blood disorder beta-thalassemia.”

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