First gene therapy trial for Delaware

    There’s another first in Delaware. Researchers at the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center are testing a new treatment using a patient’s own souped-up white blood cells to rally the body and fight melanoma, an advanced skin cancer that is often deadly.

    It is the first time gene therapy has been attempted in Delaware.

    Dr. Michael Guarino leads the clinical trial.

    “This is a way of alerting our body’s immune system to an invader and trying to attack it without attacking the rest of the body,” Guarino said.

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    White blood cells called dendritic cells help regulate the immune system.

    Researchers added modified genes to those cells and will re-inject them into the patient’s tumors. The engineered genes are designed to manufacture enormous amounts of a protein called Interleukin 12.

    Guarino says cancer can be like a blind spot to the immune system. Interleukin 12 shines a spotlight on the cancer.

    Howard Anderson, 72, is the sole participant in the trial.

    The New Castle County man has been through conventional cancer treatment without much luck.

    “They tried chemotherapy and the chemotherapy worked to a certain point. So more cancer showed up in my foot and it became more painful and then it started spreading within my foot,” Anderson said.

    Anderson lives with swollen and bleeding lesions on his leg.

    There is no expectation for a cure, but doctors hope to knock back the cancer and improve the Anderson’s quality of life.

    Doctors will monitor Anderson’s health before enrolling others in the experiment.

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