According to Ta Thanh Van, Vice Principal of the Hanoi Medical University (HMU), the university has successfully applied gene therapy in Duchenne muscular dystrophy treatment. At present, they are adopting immune cell therapy technology to treat cancer.
With the success in receiving and applying the Japanese-transferred cell technology, the university has proposed a plan to implement it in public hospitals to the Ministry of Health. This will lay a foundation to develop higher technologies including recombinant DNA technology and immune cell therapy.
Immune cell therapy, developed over the past decade, aims to rebalance and increase the strength of immune responses to effectively kill cancer cells.
When patients suffer from cancer, abnormal cells form, causing an immune system imbalance. Normally, the human body can detect the imbalance and find a way to block and kill those cells. However, the weakened immune system cannot prevent abnormal cells from developing and forming tumors.
The immune cell therapy requires drawing blood from patients and separating out the major immune cells of a patient (T cells). Next, using a disarmed virus, the T-cells are genetically engineered to produce receptors on their surface.
These special receptors allow the T-cells to recognize and attach to a specific protein, or antigen, on tumor cells. After that, the cells are grown in the laboratory into the hundreds of millions.
The final step is the infusion of the T-cells into the patient. If all goes as planned, the engineered cells further multiply in the patient’s body and, with guidance from their engineered receptor, recognise and kill cancer cells that harbor the antigen on their surfaces.
In Vietnam, one method of high-tech targeted treatment uses “small-molecule drugs” which can block the process that helps cancer cells multiply and spread. They work by targeting specific genes or proteins found in cancer cells or in cells related to cancer growth.
Targeted therapy depends on the responsiveness of individual patients’ cancer patients. Some patients can adapt to it well while others cannot. Targeted therapy fails to succeed in over 30% of patients.
Therefore, patients need to take a genetic test to evaluate the state of their cancer cells before any treatment. HMU is the pioneer in implementing this technique in Vietnam.
So far, targeted therapy has brought about positive results. The first and second-generation drugs are covered by the social insurance programme.