Horses and rabbits can help improve outcomes for human patients receiving bone marrow transplants. Wait- horses and rabbits? Yes!
Bone marrow transplants involve harvesting stem cells from the bone marrow of a healthy person and transplanting them into a patient with certain cancers or blood disorders- leukemia, aplastic anemia, and sickle cell disease, to name a few. Harvesting stem cells from a relative usually has the best outcome, but that’s not always possible. A full sibling only has about a 25% chance of being a match, so most patients find an unrelated match through the bone marrow registry. (www.bethematch.org) Finding a way to improve the outcome for unrelated matches is always a goal in research- and this is where horses and rabbits come in!
Researchers inject human T-cells into a rabbit or a horse. Then, the animal’s immune system kills the T-cells and their bodies create antibodies. These antibodies are then removed and given to human patients- and they then kill the patient’s T-cells, reducing the risk of rejection!
Horse or rabbit anti-thymocyte globulin (ATG) has been used to prevent organ rejection in transplant patients as well as in the treatment of aplastic anemia. Talk about animals helping people!
A novel treatment proves successful in patients with INCURABLE cases of leukemia! 59 patients who had exhausted all other treatment options were treated with a new therapy at UPenn. Out of 32 adult patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), 15 responded to the treatment and 7 experienced complete remissions. All of the 5 first adult patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) experienced complete remissions!
But the most amazing results were seen in pediatric cancer patients! Out of 22 patients with ALL, 80% experienced complete remissions! And keep in mind- these were all patients whose cancer was completely resistant to all other types of chemotherapy and who would have died.
Here’s how it works: T-cells are collected from the patient and are then genetically modified so that they target tumor cells. These modified T-cells are then infused back into the patient, where they begin to do their jobs. Because the T-cells are made to target only the proteins expressed on cancer cells, normal cells are left alone. And these T-cells remain in the body, protecting patients from relapse! (Check out link below for details.)
Please take a minute and watch the videos in the below links- definitely worth your time! Amazing what research can do!