Science Questions

Could we cure cancer with blood transfusion?

Sat, 7th Oct 2006

Part of the show How Cancers Form, Cancer Biology and Future Therapies

Question

Steven asked:

A while ago I was in an experiment where we were told that some people's blood fights cancer. Her idea was that once you've had an operation for cancer, you then have a blood transfusion with this blood for cancer to sort of mop up any bits that they missed. Is that still going on?

Answer

The idea is that your immune system, which normally fights infection and bacteria, can also respond to any tumour cells that arise in your body. It's something that people have been thinking about for about 50 years. I started my career off as a tumour immunologist, as it's called. I think the jury's still out. There's no doubt that you can raise antibodies and cells that kill enemies; you can raise those against cancer cells. Whether you can do that naturally or whether we can make it happen by manipulating things is still not clear, but it's a very promising area. So in principle the idea is sound; we just don't know how effective it's going to be.

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