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Did You Know?: White Blood Cells Fight Cancer

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Air date: July 13, 2008


Did You know?
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Wishard Health Services

Did you Know? is presented by Wishard Health Services, becoming Eskenazi Health in 2014.

That's the hope of researchers at Wake Forest University. They plan to inject cancer patients with white blood cells from donors who’s cells have shown cancer-fighting ability.

The notion that white blood cells can destroy tumors dates back to 1999, when the researchers discovered a mouse that resisted deadly cancers injected into its body.

In a colony bred from the resistant mouse, the researchers found white blood cells called granulocytes that killed cancer cells. When injected into normal mice with cancer, the cells killed the tumors in every case.

The researchers are now hoping to repeat that success in people. They’ve successfully tested human, cancer-killing white blood cells in the lab; now they're collecting granulocytes from donors. If the cells help selected cancer patients, further trials will test how well the cells work against different kinds of cancer.

As for what makes granulocytes effective cancer killers, the researchers are still in the dark. For now, their focus is on advancing their research to the point that the cells can help the largest number of cancer patients.

And now you know.