A Redditor that goes by the username sarahjewel just posted a photograph of a serum bag filled with an opaque white liquid, claiming that it'll hopefully clean up her cancer for good, and the internet went bonkers about it.
As of now, the post has 160K karma. But why, exactly?
Well, the bag is filled with sarahjewel's own immune cells, T cells, to be precise, genetically altered T cells. Sarah revealed in a comment on Reddit she made 9-month prior that she's "... in treatment for cancer for the FOURTH time. [For a] cancer that is super rare (one in a million people diagnosed a year) and super deadly, called Synovial Sarcoma."
Further down the comment, she mentions that the primary location of the cancer was below her arch. There is a photo of the post-op but be advised about graphic content. Also, she mentions that she's enrolling in clinical trials. That's where we are with the topic.
T cells are immune cells that predominantly combat viral infections and tumor cells. They have certain surface proteins that constantly scan the body for things that are out of the ordinary. They induce cytokine release in the event of a potentially unwanted encounter.
However, some tumor cells find ways to stay under the radar of T cells. Thus far, scientists have developed two ways to modify these T cells to make them more effective in combatting cancerous cells.
First, one of them is called chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) therapy, and the second one is gene-modified T cell receptor (TCR) therapy. Essentially, the difference between them is the targeted antigen. We won't get into details, but the figure below lays out the key difference in their mechanisms. In the case of Sarah, we are looking at an example of TCR therapy.
In the comment section of the original post, Sarah also revealed the study paper of the trial she's enrolled in. The trial on ADP-A2M4 SPEAR T cell efficacy is on its Phase 2. In this therapy, T cells of the patients are harvested and modified in a laboratory setting, then they are infused back into the bloodstream as cancer hunter cells.
Or as one Redditor put it: It’s like sending your white cells off to become Navy SEALS.