Dr. Steven Rosenberg is a surgeon and research scientist who early in his career discovered that the body’s immune system could possibly recover from cancer. This discovery came about in 1968 when he put his hand into a patient’s body, and carefully felt around the liver for the cancer that was there before, and found there was no trace of cancer left anywhere in the patient! This patient should have died 12 years before, but somehow his body had been able to defeat the cancer. This discovery led Dr. Rosenberg to wonder if the human body could somehow get the immune system to fight and beat cancer, and he was determined to study this to help people.
All his patients are terminal, which means they are expected to die from their cancer. They have all tried chemotherapy and radiation, which is when they put poisons into the body to try to kill or shrink cancer tumors, or surgery, where surgeons operate and try to cut out cancer tumors. None of these procedures have worked for Dr. Rosenberg’s patients, and so they are terminal, and have pretty much no hope left. They are expecting to die.
Dr. Rosenberg’s idea was to attack cancer cells with the body’s own immune cells, specifically, the T-lymphocytes, which are white blood cells capable of killing other cells. The difficult part is to get enough of the T-lymphocytes together to launch an attack, and to somehow control them so they would only attack the cancer cells, and not the body’s other cells! Other goals were to do this without bad side-effects that would hurt or kill the patient, and also to get long-term effects so the patients could live a long time, or even be cured.
To do this, Dr. Rosenberg and his team at the National Institutes of Health experimented by extracting T cells from both animals and humans, getting those T cells to grow in the laboratory in tissue cultures, experimenting with conditions to make sure the T cells kept their cancer cell-killing ability, and then injecting them...
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