CRISPR, the gene-editing tool, has been used to enhance the blood cells of two cancer patients [technologyreview.com] to attack their cancer for the first time in the United States.
The experimental research, under way at the University of Pennsylvania, involves genetically altering a person’s T cells so that they attack and destroy cancer. A university spokesman confirmed it has treated the first patients, one with sarcoma and one with multiple myeloma.
This isn't the first such use of CRISPR however, just the first in the U.S.
Chinese hospitals, meanwhile, have launched a score of similar efforts. Carl June, the famed University of Pennsylvania cancer doctor, has compared the Chinese lead in employing CRISPR to a genetic Sputnik.
More such studies are in progress and on the way
This year, for example, a patient in Europe became the first person to be treated with CRISPR for an inherited disease, beta thalassemia [technologyreview.com].
Sufferers of beta thalassemia have a defective gene responsible for the production of red blood cells, which leaves them dependent on transfusions. In that trial a second copy of the gene that is normally deactivated at birth will be reactivated. It is theorized that this could result in an effective cure of the condition.