New therapy may improve stem cell transplants for blood cancers

New therapy may improve stem cell transplants for blood cancers

Ivan Dimov, Jeroen Bekaert and Nate Fernhoff - pictured here - recognized the need for a more effective cell sorting technology to reduce the risk of Graft vs Host disease, which affects many cancer patients after receiving stem cell transplants.

Orca Bio

In 2018, Robyn was diagnosed with myelofibrosis, a blood cancer causing chronic inflammation and scarring. As a research scientist by training, she knew she had limited options. A stem cell transplant is a terminally ill patient's best chance for survival against blood cancers, including leukaemia. It works by destroying a patient's cancer cells and replacing them with healthy cells from a donor.

However, there is a huge risk of Graft vs Host disease (GVHD), which affects around 30-40% of recipients. Patients receive billions of cells in a stem cell transplant but only a fraction are beneficial. The rest can attack healthy tissue leading to GVHD. It affects the skin, gut and lungs and can be truly debilitating.

Currently, steroids are used to try and prevent GVHD, but they have many side effects and are effective in only 50% of cases. “I spoke with my doctors and reached out to patients managing GVHD,” says Robyn, who prefers not to use her last name for privacy reasons. “My concerns really escalated for what I might face post-transplant.”

Then she heard about a new highly precise cell therapy developed by a company called Orca Bio, which gives patients more beneficial cells and fewer cells that cause GVHD. She decided to take part in their phase 2 trial.

How It Works

In stem cell transplants, patients receive immune cells and stem cells. The donor immune cells or T cells attack and kill malignant cells. This is the graft vs leukaemia effect (GVL). The stem cells generate new healthy cells.

Keep ReadingKeep Reading
Sarah Philip
Sarah Philip is a London-based freelance journalist who writes about science, film and TV. You can follow her on Twitter @sarahph1lip.
A new oral vaccine could prevent urinary tract infections for years

Urinary tract infections account for more than 8 million trips to the doctor each year.

Getty Images

Few things are more painful than a urinary tract infection (UTI). Common in men and women, these infections account for more than 8 million trips to the doctor each year and can cause an array of uncomfortable symptoms, from a burning feeling during urination to fever, vomiting, and chills. For an unlucky few, UTIs can be chronic—meaning that, despite treatment, they just keep coming back.

But new research, presented at the European Association of Urology (EAU) Congress in Paris this week, brings some hope to people who suffer from UTIs.

Keep ReadingKeep Reading
Sarah Watts

Sarah Watts is a health and science writer based in Chicago.

MILESTONE: Doctors have transplanted a pig organ into a human for the first time in history

A surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital prepares a pig organ for transplant.

Michelle Rose/Massachusetts General Hospital

Surgeons at Massachusetts General Hospital made history last week when they successfully transplanted a pig kidney into a human patient for the first time ever.

The recipient was a 62-year-old man named Richard Slayman who had been living with end-stage kidney disease caused by diabetes. While Slayman had received a kidney transplant in 2018 from a human donor, his diabetes ultimately caused the kidney to fail less than five years after the transplant. Slayman had undergone dialysis ever since—a procedure that uses an artificial kidney to remove waste products from a person’s blood when the kidneys are unable to—but the dialysis frequently caused blood clots and other complications that landed him in the hospital multiple times.

Keep ReadingKeep Reading
Sarah Watts

Sarah Watts is a health and science writer based in Chicago.