This is the future of medicine. Personalizing treatment will be one key aspect of how to conquer many diseases. Beautiful about this treatment is the fact, that it was able to cure cancer in most of the study participants. From 21 patients who received the treatment, 18(!) went into complete remission. Side effects were minimal. Does anyone remember when we talked about CRISPR for gene therapy in CFS a few weeks ago? Well, the treatment principle here is not that much different: "In the therapy, doctors first remove the patient's T-cells, which play a crucial role in the immune system. They then reprogram the cells by transferring in new genes." http://edition.cnn.com/2013/12/07/health/cohen-cancer-study/index.html?hpt=hp_t2 "He understood he could die," Wilkins says. "He was very stoic." A few months later, Nick traveled from his home in Virginia to Philadelphia to become a part of the experiment. This new therapy was decidedly different from the treatments he'd received before: Instead of attacking his cancer with poisons like chemotherapy and radiation, the Philadelphia doctors taught Nick's own immune cells to become more adept at killing the cancer. Two months later, he emerged cancer-free. It's been six months since Nick, now 15, received the personalized cell therapy, and doctors still can find no trace of leukemia in his system. Twenty-one other young people received the same treatment at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and 18 of them, like Nick, went into complete remission -- one of them has been disease-free for 20 months. The Penn doctors released their findings this weekend at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology. "It gives us hope that this is a cure," Nick's father says. "They're really close. I think they're really onto something." 'A whole new realm of medicine ' At the conference, two other cancer centers -- Memorial Sloan-Kettering in New York and the National Cancer Institute -- will be announcing results with immunotherapies like the one Nick received. The results are promising, especially considering that the patients had no success with practically every other therapy. "This is absolutely one of the more exciting advances I've seen in cancer therapy in the last 20 years," said Dr. David Porter, a hematologist and oncologist at Penn. "We've entered into a whole new realm of medicine." In the therapy, doctors first remove the patient's T-cells, which play a crucial role in the immune system. They then reprogram the cells by transferring in new genes. Once infused back into the body, each modified cell multiplies to 10,000 cells. These "hunter" cells then track down and kill the cancer in a patient's body. Essentially, researchers are trying to train Nick's body to fight off cancer in much the same way our bodies fight off the common cold. Tumor Paint: Changing the way surgeons fight cancer In addition to the pediatric patients, Penn scientists tried the therapy out in 37 adults with leukemia, and 12 went into complete remission. Eight more patients went into partial remission and saw some improvements in their disease. The treatment does make patients have flulike symptoms for a short period of time -- Nick got so sick he ended up in the intensive care unit for a day -- but patients are spared some of the more severe and long-lasting side effects of extensive chemotherapy. Penn will now work with other medical centers to test the therapy in more patients, and they plan to try the therapy out in other types of blood cancers and later in solid tumors. A university press release says it has a licensing relationship with the pharmaceutical company Novartis and "received significant financial benefit" from the trial, and Porter and other inventors of the technology "have benefited financially and/or may benefit financially in the future." One of the best aspects of this new treatment is that it won't be terribly difficult to reproduce at other medical centers, Porter said, and one day, instead of being used only experimentally, it could be available to anyone who needed it. "Our hope is that this can progress really quite quickly," he said. "It won't be available to everyone next year, but I don't think it would take a decade, either." Right now patients can only get this therapy if they're in a study, but Dr. Renier Brentjens, director for cellular therapeutics at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, says he thinks it could become available to all patients in just three to five years. "When you have three centers all with a substantial number of patients seeing the same thing -- that these cells work in this disease - you know it's not a fluke," he said. Two days ago, Brentjens became the co-founder of Juno Therapeutics, a for-profit biotech start-up company that's working on immunotherapies. "Fifteen years ago I was in the lab looking at these cells kill tumor cells in a petri dish and then I saw them kill tumor cells in mice, and then finally in humans," Brentjens said. He says he'll never forget the first patient he treated, who initially had an enormous amount of cancer cells in his bone marrow. Then after the therapy, Brentjens looked under the microscope and, in awe, realized he couldn't find a single cancer cell. "I can't describe what that's like," he said. "It's fantastic."