Taking a cue from a predator desperate for a long awaited prey, the thirst and hunger motivating it on each step of the way, Dr Steven A Rosenberg began to pursue the possibility of turbocharging the body’s immune system to slaughter cancer cells — you may call it a killer therapy for cancer — way more quickly and efficiently, in 1968.
The passion behind the man’s journey to find a cure can be highlighted by the statements he made, “Something began to burn in me, something that has never gone out.” Currently, Dr Rosenberg is the chief surgeon at the National Cancer Institute and part of a small but competitive group of doctors optimistic about pursuing their dream.
“Everything seems impossible until it’s done,” as he says. Ever been blessed with a competitive and fiery urge to pursue something, deemed impossible or a ‘waste of time’ by others? Well, despite a wave of negativity and pessimism Dr Rosenberg dedicated 50 years (half a century!) to find a better way to fight off cancerous cells.
Finally, his efforts bore fruit and he, along with his colleagues, is now at the forefront of a magnificent new therapy to battle cancerous cells, known as ‘cell therapy’. The unique aspect about this therapy is that it is genetically modified to cater to the needs of the patient in question.
Here’s the gist of the technique, the T-cells, aka the soldiers of the immune system, are extracted from the patient, genetically brainwashed to recognize and kill cancerous cells, multiplied and released in the patient’s bloodstream, like an army of crusaders on a mission.
According to Dr Carl H June of the University of Pennsylvania, who has referred to these miraculous cells as ‘serial killers’, “A single one can destroy up to 100,000 cancer cells.” “I call it a Frankenstein-like molecule,” said Dr Renier J Brentjens, the director of cellular therapeutics at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.