A team of American medical researchers is looking for cancer patients to be treated using the CRISPR / Cas 9 genetic engineering technology. The study is supposed to begin shortly.
The plan is to genetically modify human antibodies, and then program them to find and attack tumors, according to MIT Technology Review.
It is a team of doctors at the University of Pennsylvania who will launch a clinical trial involving up to 18 patients. This is the first experiment outside China in which CRISPR is used to treat people.
The doctors at Penn University will use the patient’s blood, and the CRISPRtool to modify the genes outside the body, and then inject the blood again. An approach that is considered less risky than injecting the tool directly into the patient.
The idea is to make the antibodies more potent. The researchers make two changes in their structure. They remove a gene that cancer cells use to disable the immune system. Then they replace the gene usually used to find diseases or bacteria, and change to one that is tailored to find a particular type of tumor.
The researchers target patients with bone marrow cancer, skin cancer or sarcoma. The study is financed, inter alia, by tech investor Sean Parker, who founded Napster’s filing service and has been involved in both Spotify and Facebook.
“We are in the final steps of preparing for the trial, but cannot provide a specific projected start date,”
– Spokesperson for Penn Medicine told MIT Technology Review.
The doctors got the green light by the US authorities in June 2016 already, but only now are they ready to start the trial. In a comment to MIT Tech, the university says that they have no start date for the study, but that is in the final stages of the preparations.