New Kidney Cancer Treatment

By Nancy Steinbach

This is the VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT.

American researchers report that an experimental treatment for kidney cancer can reduce the size of cancerous growths or destroy them completely.

The treatment was developed at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute near Washington D. C. by Richard Childs and others. They told about the new treatment in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The doctors treated nineteen patients between one and three years ago. All the patients suffered kidney cancer that had spread to other organs. They had not been helped by traditional treatments. Few were expected to live more than one year when the treatments began. Today, nine patients are still alive. Eight died of the cancer. Two died from the treatment.

The treatment used special blood cells provided by each patient's brother or sister whose cells were similar. The blood cells are called stem cells. They produce blood and can create a healthy defense system against disease.

First, the patients were given drugs to suppress their own bodies' defense systems so they would not reject the stem cells. Then, the doctors placed the stem cells in their bodies so the cells could attack the cancer.

The biggest danger of the treatment was that the cells would attack not just the cancer, but the patients' healthy tissue. Two patients died as a result of this problem.

The researchers gave the patients drugs to try to prevent this. They also began withdrawing the drugs as soon as they could to permit the stem cells to attack the cancer. It took four to eight months for this to happen.

After the treatment, the cancer completely disappeared in three patients. One of the patients has survived for three years. In six other patients who are still alive, the cancerous growths were reduced.

Cancer experts welcomed the results of the study. They say it means that transplanted blood cells can recognize cancer and destroy it. But they say the treatment is not for everyone because of the possible dangers.

Researchers say more work is needed. Another group at the National Institutes of Health is doing a similar study in patients with a dangerous kind of skin cancer. Researchers also hope to test the treatment further in kidney cancer. They say that if these studies are successful, the treatment also may be tried against other kinds of cancer.

This VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT was written by Nancy Steinbach.

Voice of America Special English