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Fresh hope for transplant patients

A new treatment could help prevent organ transplant patients developing blood cancer, research suggests.

University of Edinburgh researchers used cell therapy to try to combat the risk which leads to one in 10 organ recipients developing cancer, which in 50% of cases ends in death.

Patients given the new treatment stayed cancer-free for up to nine years, the study, viewable in the journal Transplantation, shows.

Patients who developed blood cancer were treated with white blood cells - known as T cells - which patrol the body and identify and kill virus-infected cells.

The team treated patients who suffered from a type of blood cancer called post-transplant lymphoproliferative disease (PTLD).

It is associated with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), a herpes virus that is carried by more than 90% of the population.

The virus is generally harmless but can cause tumours in transplant patients whose immune systems are heavily suppressed to prevent rejection of the transplanted organ.

Up to 10% of patients may develop the cancer in the first few years following transplant and around 50% of those will die even with standard treatment.

The university team grew T cells in a laboratory and gave them to 33 PTLD patients - who had not responded to standard treatments - for one month. Around half the treated patients showed a good response after six months.

The study shows that 90% of those who responded initially have remained cancer-free for between four and nine years.

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