Came across this through the CNN site. This group completed a very small trial to study the safety of their approach, and found an unexpectedly potent clinical response. Their approach is somewhat similar in concept to the natural killer cell trials they are doing here at MIRT, but this approach is more targeted. In the natural killer cell trials they rely on natural ability of those cells to generically attack and destroy cancer cells. The cells are expanded over levels that would normally be found in the body and infused back in to the patient. The Penn group on the other hand have taken T cells from the patient and genetically modified them to respond very specifically to an antigen found on the surface of CLL cancer cells. They infused the cells back in and found they actually expanded and persisted for months. It’s making a splash because they saw a very dramatic clinical response in one of the patients (complete remission of very advanced disease), and also because the cells expanded in the patient and stuck around for months. Apparently a few other groups have tried similar things int he past and saw only modest clinical effect and the cells were rapidly lost from the body. This group tweaked things a little and may have hit pay dirt, only time and more testing will tell.
This same approach could potentially be used for other cancers (including myeloma) by changing the antigen that is targeted.
Here is the link to the actual NEJM article