1st U.S. patients undergo cancer treatment with CRISPR gene-editing tech

The first patients in the U.S. have been treated using CRISPR gene-editing technology, NPR reports.

Months after scientists at the Philadelphia-based University of Pennsylvania's Abramson Cancer Center received approval to conduct a study to treat cancer patients with CRISPR — which stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats — a university official confirmed that two patients have already begun the precision medicine treatment.

One of the patients has multiple myeloma, while the other has sarcoma, according to NPR. Both failed standard cancer treatments before beginning the CRISPR-based regimen.

The UPenn study has been approved to treat up to 18 patients and is expected to conclude in early 2033. Scientists will remove immune system cells from cancer patients and modify or eliminate specific genes using CRISPR's precise editing technology, then replace the cells in the body.

Though this marks the first time CRISPR has been used to treat patients in the U.S., other studies have already begun in China and Germany. Even more trials have been proposed and, once approved, are expected to begin later this year in Europe, Canada, and the U.S., reported NPR. The trials will examine treatment for cancerous tumors, genetic blood diseases like sickle cell anemia and beta thalassemia, and Leber congenital amaurosis, a hereditary form of blindness.

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