Dr. Thomas Kipps and his team at the Leukemia Center at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) have been at the forefront of Leukemia research for a long time. There are many things discovered there that have brought great benefit to CLL sufferers just like me, including the correlation of a less-favorable prognosis requiring early treatment through the testing for IgVH Gene Mutational Status. This is a very expensive test, not offered by commercial labs or paid for by insurance. It was done for me free by Dr. Kipps and Company because the CLL Consortium (a pool of research universities and hospitals, including UCSD, MD Anderson, the Mayo Clinic, Ohio State University Medical Center, Dana Farber Cancer Institute Harvard Medical School, Emory Medical Center . . . and others) wants to collect that data from us CLL patients. (Thanks, Dr. Kipps and UCSD!) By the way, unfortunately, I am UNMUTATED.
Read more from UCSD – HERE
After careful observation of some patients who had fared better than expected after receiving targeted gene therapy, where a patient’s own immune system is modified with his own immune cells to target certain proteins that express themselves on the surface of cancer cells, they made a remarkable discovery. The embryonic protein RO1, which switches itself off after birth, was found expressed on the surface of metastasized cancer cells, but not on the surface of the parent tumor. This is huge news, since targeted gene therapy, or the synthesizing of a new monoclonal antibody (like Rituximab, Alemtuzumab, etc.) type drug can be developed to target only the ROR1 protein. This can possibly allow the metastasized cancers to be treated successfully while the parent tumor is treated by more conventional means. The extent of how successful treatment using these means against ROR1 is unknown, but it is a great starting place, since the cancer patient frequently succumbs to the metastasis or complications from it rather than the parent tumor.
The ROR1 protein was found expressed in metastatic Breast Cancer, Prostate Cancer, Lung Cancer, and I’m sure they are searching for it like mad on a host of other types of cancers. I’m also sure they are working on modifying some of the existing monoclonals to get them to target the ROR1 protein.
The Rituximab I took targeted the protein CD38 which exists only on the cancerous B-Type White Blood Cells (lymphocytes). Though Rituximab can have very serious side-effects, up to and including death (pretty serious, I’d say), it targets and destroys only the cells containing the protein CD38, and not adjacent cells and tissues, unlike conventional chemotherapies and radiation.
This is huge news in the cancer community, and it is brought to you courtesy of the folks who have dedicated their lives to the eradication of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL). There are lots of them, and I salute them, each and every one!!