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SPECIAL COVERAGE: Living With Wildfires: San Diego Firestorm 10 Years Later

Cancer Trials At UCSD Aim To Use Body’s Immune System

Three clinical trials are underway at the Moores Cancer Center to test a way to harness the body's immune system to fight cancer, UC San Diego Health Sciences said Tuesday.

Scientists in the studies are using modified T cells — white blood cells that are one of the immune system's primary weapons — to treat three different types of blood cancer that often defy existing therapies.

"Lymphomas and leukemias affect thousands of Americans every year and unfortunately a good number of them die as a direct consequence of the disease progression or toxicity from existing treatments," said Dr. Januario Castro, a professor at UC San Diego School of Medicine and a blood disease specialist at Moores Cancer Center. "We have made great strides with some blood cancers, notably Hodgkin lymphoma, but others have proved more resistant, with patients exhausting all current standards of care."

The T cells are removed from a patient and modified to contain a gene that produces a protein on their surface, and then reintroduced into the patient with the hope they can bind to and kill cancer cells, the researchers said.

The studies are targeting non-Hodgkin lymphoma, the rare mantle cell lymphoma and acute lymphoblastic leukemia, an aggressive form of the disease, according to UCSD. The researchers want to see if the concept is effective and safe.

The trials are a collaboration between Santa Monica-based Kite Pharma and multiple testing sites, including UC San Diego medical centers in Hillcrest and La Jolla.

All three trials are recruiting participants, according to UCSD Health.

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