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First CRISPR Gene Editing Trial in Cancer Patients Shows Promising Results

By Mark Prvulovic – Feb 7, 2020 at 5:09PM

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The technique itself appears to be safe and effective in humans.

The first human trial involving CRISPR gene-editing technology to modify the immune cells of cancer patients recently announced its findings. The trial, which is the first of its kind to publish its results, tested three individuals with advanced cancer to see whether or not genetically edited immune cells would be safely tolerated by the patient's bodies.

The three patients in question, all in their 60s, had tumors that failed to respond to various cancer treatments. During the trial, they were given a dose of CRISPR-modified variants of their own T cells, which were deliberately edited to be more efficient at killing cancer cells. Not only were there no problems reintroducing these modified cells back into the patient's bodies, but it turned out that these cells survived longer than expected. Modified cells were found present in the patient's nine months after the treatment.

A picture of a piece of DNA being plucked by a pair of tweezers.

Image source: Getty Images.

All three patients saw their symptoms stabilize during the treatment period, with one even seeing a reduction in tumor size. Although the treatment was just a one-time injection and wasn't continued, the results were promising enough that experts are considering the trial a success.

A big deal for gene-editing stocks

While the trial didn't produce lasting changes in patients, it did prove that gene-edited immune cells could be safely integrated into the body without major complications.

This is also encouraging news for biotech stocks developing gene-edited drugs. Companies like CRISPR Therapeutics (CRSP 4.14%) and Editas Medicine (EDIT 4.01%) are creating a number of drug candidates to treat various genetic disorders, but safety concerns are a top concern for this new technology. These recent trial results might help mitigate these concerns while opening the door for further tests in the future.

Mark Prvulovic has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends CRISPR Therapeutics and Editas Medicine. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Editas Medicine, Inc. Stock Quote
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