Leukemia Cure? Possible Major Medical Breakthrough

Memorial Sloan-Kettering researchers genetically alters patients' own immune cells to fight a deadly form of leukemia.
2:58 | 03/21/13

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Transcript for Leukemia Cure? Possible Major Medical Breakthrough
Now to what could be a major breakthrough in the fight against cancer. We're very excited about this. In a clinical trial patients' own immune cells were altered to fight a deadly form of leukemia. One patient is said to be cancer-free after just eight days of treatment. Abc's chief medical editor dr. Richard besser is here to tell us more. I know there's a lot of complicated science but can you explain how it works. This is pretty incredible. Using a patient's own immune system to fight cancer. Take a look at this animation. They had five patients with untreatable cancer. They used a virus to inject genetic material into a patient's own white cells to turn them into cancer fighters. Those then went out in the body and destroyed all the cancer cells. These patients, they all went into remission. Three of them had bone marrow transplants and are doing great. We didn't realize one of the patients, our own david aponte, our sound man, we spent time with him and it's incredible. Yeah, I spoke with david the other day, and, you know, he credits this with saving his life. Last summer he had had lots of chemotherapy he thought he was in remission and his cancer bounced back. There was nothing left for him to do. He had this treatment. They injected the cells. Overwhelming reaction in his body, eight days later not one cancer cell could be found. He's had a bone mario transplant. He's doing well. You know, he's getting chemo but he's on the road to recovery. And past the 100-day mark, the last time we communicated. We're very excited. I remember when you did a similar story with diane on "world news," precious girl emma and so just describe how other cancers and other people can be affected. Emma was treated and reported in december. She was the first patient with this type of leukemia to have this. She's in total remission, is doing great. But the idea is, you know, depending on what you inject into these cells you could target them to go after all different kinds of cancers. So the theory is maybe you would change them to go after prostate cancer or breast cancer. You know, it's an endless approach. This study was a safety study so they need to go forward, do it in more people and figure out how do you tame the reaction? It's basically creating a battle in someone's body, their own cells against the cancer cells to see who wings. At one point could this be in lieu of having a bone marrow transplant? I talked to the researchers who did this study and that's what they're thinking. You know, they didn't want to go that way here. This is the first round. It's just looking at safety but the idea is, you know, if this wipes out all of the cancer cells why would you need to move forward and do a bone marrow transplant. Emma did not but here for adults with this cancer only 40% survival rate, here this is an idea you might be able to treat and cure people with this disease. This is so encouraging, so promising. Nice to see you, rich. Thanks so much.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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