The quest to bring immunotherapy into widespread clinical use against cancer and infectious diseases has made great strides in recent years. For example, clinical trials of adoptive T-cell therapy are yielding highly promising results. The latest progress was reported on Sunday, February 14, 2016, at the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS 2016 in Washington, DC) by three international leaders in the field: Professor Dirk Busch of the Technical University of Munich (TUM), Professor Chiara Bonini of the San Raffaele Scientific Institute, and Professor Stanley Riddell of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington. T-cell immunity has evolved to recognize and respond to health threats and to provide a lifelong memory that prevents recurrent disease. However, with chronic diseases, reactive T-cells often become inactive or even disappear. Recent advances have brought the idea of fighting chronic infections, and even cancers, by restoring protective T-cell responses much closer to reality. The main focus of the AAAS 2016 session "Fighting Cancer and Chronic Infections with T Cell Therapy: Promise and Progress" is on adoptive T-cell therapy, in which a patient receives "killer" immune cells that target a disease-associated molecule. Several obstacles have stood in the way of widespread clinical use: identifying or generating T-cells that will be most effective for each individual case, whether from the patient or from a suitable donor; avoiding or countering potential side-effects; and finding ways to shorten the path from bench to bedside. Progress is being reported on all three fronts, including data from the first clinical trials.
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