CRISPR is a Leading Cancer Treatment in China and Only 1 Study Is Approved in USA
For many years, people have attempted to find the cure for cancer. There are many common treatments that people go through in order to get rid of cancer. While they sometimes are effective, unfortunately, they come with serious side effects.
There is an experimental treatment in China involving a gene-editing tool called CRISPR. This treatment takes T cells from one’s immune system and genetically alters them in a lab by using this tool. After these cells are altered, they are placed back into the person’s body. Once they are in the person’s body, the T cells attack and destroy cancer cells.
Through this specific cancer treatment, a blood sample is taken from the cancer patient and sent to a biotech company. At the lab in this company, the T cells are extracted from the blood via a bullet train. Once the T cells are extracted, the CRISPR is used to destroy a gene in the T cells called PD-1. PD-1 is a protein which attaches itself to the T cells and prevents it from attacking other cells. Whether or not this treatment is completely effective, it is too early to tell. But the side effects have been rather mild, ranging from rashes to fevers.
According to Hangzhou’s cancer hospital’s president, Dr. Shixiu Wu, “If [patients] have not received this treatment, they will die: most of them will die in three to six months. Chinese patients want to be cured very much. There’s a Chinese saying: A living dog is better than a dead lion. So patients are willing to try new cures. That’s why the ethics committee and the lab are very positive about this.” Wu stated that he has warned all of his patients already about possible side effects. “We are just beginning. We should improve it to get more benefits for the patients. If you don’t try it, you’ll never know.”
However, a bioethicist from the University of Chicago, Lainie Ross, remains skeptical. “My concern is: Are we really ready? There is so much about CRISPR that we don’t understand. We could be doing more harm than benefit. We need to be very, very cautious. This is an incredibly powerful tool.”
It is difficult to say yet whether or not this will be effective, or if the rest of the world will tag along. There has only been one CRISPR study approved in the United States, and it still hasn’t found any patients to treat. Currently, in China, they are treating a patient with esophageal cancer. We shall see how this will play out in the future and if this will be an effective treatment for cancer.