“Curing Cancer? That’s Cute”
From the fringe of the fringe to the brink of a revolution in medicine; this is the cell and gene therapy story as told by the society that was there at the very beginning – the ISCT
James Strachan | | Longer Read
In the early 2000s, Catherine Bollard took the stage at an international scientific meeting to tell delegates about her work using T cells to treat cancer – an approach that would eventually be described by an FDA Commissioner as “revolutionary.” But she wasn’t presenting to a packed auditorium. She was in a small room away from the bigger sessions and recalls, “Pretty much everyone there was a friend.”
Cell and gene therapies may be an integral part of today’s treatment triumvirate: small molecules, large molecules, and advanced medicines. But it wasn’t long ago that today’s star researchers were seen as outsiders by the mainstream. “There wasn’t a lot of enthusiasm for cell therapy,” says Bollard, Professor of Pediatrics and Immunology at The George Washington University and Children’s National Hospital and Past-President of the International Society for Cell and Gene Therapy (ISCT). “Colleagues were either impressed that we were working on something so ‘out there’ or, more often than not, skeptical or dismissive. The idea of using the body’s immune system to kill cancer was like voodoo to many oncologists.”
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