2 people in Philly the first to be treated in US using CRISPR

Ian Bush
April 17, 2019 - 7:36 pm

Oleksandr Bushko/Getty Images

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A clinical trial at the University of Pennsylvania is making history.

For the first time in the United States, researchers are testing the gene-editing tool CRISPR on people.

Two cancer patients at Penn's Abramson Cancer Center have been treated using the technology, though it may be a while before we know how they're doing.

CRISPR allows DNA to be edited almost as easily as you would a Word document. In the Penn trial, T cells are taken from a patient's immune system and the bad stuff is removed, including a protein called PD-1, which cancer cells can use to dodge the body's defenses. The doctors also use CRISPR to insert a gene they've engineered to go on the attack against tumors. 

One of the patients has sarcoma, which affects connective tissue. Another person in the study has multiple myeloma, cancer of the blood plasma. 

Both had suffered relapses.

Penn says it will share findings and how the people in the study are faring "at an appropriate time."

Funding for the trial is provided by the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy.