Local researchers leading the way in cancer treatment

SEATTLE -- Scientists continue to make giant leaps in the fields of cancer research, and the hope is that one day the disease is as easy to treat as the common cold.

It's not that simple yet, but researchers at the Seattle Care Alliance are revving up the immune system so a patient's own body can attack the cancer.

Matt Flood recently returned to the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance for his six month check up, where a CAT scan looked for any signs his melanoma had spread.

When Flood first came to the center 3 years ago his cancer was already at stage four and his prognosis was dismal. Doctors told him he could be dead in just four to nine months.

"So I've outlived it by three times, at least, already. And the prospects are pretty good," Flood said.

Flood's remarkable turnaround came through a groundbreaking treatment developed by researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Doctors take the disease-fighting T-cells from the patient's blood, grow them in the lab, and then transfuse them back into the patient. In simple term, they harness the body's immune system and turn it on cancer cells.

"My own immune system tweaked up, revved up, souped up, rebuilt, by SCCA and Fred Hutchinson. And the research they've done, that's been the difference, without a doubt," Flood said.

Flood had the treatment a year ago and expects positive news from his CAT scan. It turns out he was right. His doctor told told him the two areas of concern are now gone, and Flood's main tumor is shrinking. He's now in what's called "near complete remission."

"We haven't seen the same responses for everybody. We at least have two patients that are really responding significantly and another four that had stable disease," said Dr. Aude Chapuis.

There's more work to be done, but Flood's story gives researchers proof they're on the right track.

Another benefit of the immune therapy is it's less likely to produce the debilitating side effects of traditional cancer treatment. In Flood's case, the main side effect is that his T-cells attacked the pigment in his eyebrows and eyelashes, turning them white.