Treating Cancer From Within

Cancer Risk Generic CBS/AP

For 4 years, Robert Brody's cancer has stubbornly resisted all treatment, so this week, as CBS News Correspondent Elizabeth Kaledin reports, he is fighting back with a highly experimental procedure being studied at the National Cancer Institute.

"I'm young, and I need to get rid of this cancer and get another 40 years out of my body," says Brody, a cancer paient.

It's called immunotherapy: The science of getting the body's own immune system to fight cancer.

Dr. Steven Rosenberg has been trying to perfect the technique for 20 years.

"It's the first time we've been able to achieve numbers like this," says Rosenberg, the chief of surgery at the institute.

Rosenberg and his colleagues start by removing healthy cells and tumor cells from patients with metastatic melanoma.

In special cultures, they cultivate and strengthen billions of the white blood cells, or T-cells, that make up the body's immune system and put them back into the body.

"We have special techniques for identifying the cells most reactive against the cancer," says Rosenber.

This latest study is a breakthrough for scientists, marking the first time they've seen the infused immune cells not only survive but grow to even larger numbers. Of 13 patients tested, six had more than 50 percent of their tumors disappear, while another four showed some improvement.

Sharon Fuerte was one of the 13. Melanoma had spread to her lungs and initial cat scans showed multiple tumors.

But after receiving infusions of billions of her own souped-up cells last summer, 80 percent of her cancer has vanished.

"I was jumping up and down, and I hugged my doctor, and I said thank you thank you thank you," she says.

Now, Robert Brody and his wife are quietly hoping for similar results. They'll find out in about a month if the treatment is working and if immunotherapy can continue to live up to its promise.


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