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Drugs called immune checkpoint inhibitors have transformed treatment of many types of tumors, but metastatic lung cancer has proven more challenging: While these medications have significantly extended survival for some patients, most still do not respond or develop resistance quickly. Now a small proof-of-concept study published in Nature Medicine shows that a new form of immunotherapy using a patient’s own immune cells may bring about durable responses for some people with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

Patients in the small Phase 1 pilot trial were treated with tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs), which have previously brought about durable remissions in studies of patients with some other cancers but had not previously been tested in metastatic lung cancer. TILs are naturally found in solid tumors and have the ability to kill cancer cells, but the body doesn’t produce enough of them. So the researchers extracted the cells from tumors and grew billions of copies in lab dishes before transferring them back into the patients.

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