Doctors have for the first time in the United States tested a powerful gene-editing technique in people with cancer.
The test, meant to assess only safety, was a step toward the ultimate goal of editing genes to help a patient’s own immune system to attack cancer. The editing was done by the DNA-snipping tool Crispr.
The procedure was feasible and safe, early results indicate, but whether it is fighting the disease is unclear. Only three patients have been treated so far, and the longest follow-up is nine months. All three patients are in their 60s, with very advanced cancers that had progressed despite standard treatments like surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.
“The good news is that all of them are alive,” said Dr. Edward A. Stadtmauer, the section chief of hematologic malignancies at the University of Pennsylvania Abramson Cancer Center. He added, “The best response we’ve seen so far is stabilization of their disease.”