Roundup: New 'T Cell Therapy' Shows Promise in Terminally Ill Cancer Patients; Sugar Overload in Specialty Coffees

An experimental — and potentially groundbreaking — new treatment to fight cancer modifies and re-deploys the body’s own immune-system cells in terminally ill patients. Recent medical trials using this “T cell therapy” have recorded an 80 percent or higher remission rate among patients stricken with blood cancers.

The treatment involves ‘T cells,’ a type of immune cell that helps one’s body detect and destroy foreign invaders such as bacteria or viruses. Historically, cancerous cells have grown too fast for T cells to put up an effective defense. But the new therapy modifies a person’s T cells, genetically reprogramming them to better recognize and target cancer cells.

Oncologist Stanley Riddell, of Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, shared his team’s findings this week at the annual meeting of American Association for the Advancement of Science held in Washington, D.C. The success of trials using T-cell therapy made public at the meeting spurred national headlines.

In one trial, 94 percent of terminally ill lymphoblastic leukemia patients went into remission. Patients with similar blood cancers experienced response rates greater than 80 percent, with more than half going into remission. The cancer research field has intensified around immunotherapy in recent years — not only as a treatment for cancers but for other diseases as well.

The details of the studies have not been published in a peer-reviewed science journal as is customary. The T-cell therapy researchers themselves said that the results are very preliminary and that more work needs to be done.

As part of the therapy, T cells, also known as T lymphocytes, were taken from the blood of cancer patients and then genetically altered to contain “receptor” molecules that target cancer.

Riddell cautioned: “Much like chemotherapy and radiotherapy, it’s not going to be a save-all.” Some patients may require other treatments.

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Specialty Coffees Overloaded With Sugar, Group says

Flavored coffee and other specialty beverages often contain far more sugar than a can of soda, according to a new report released this week. A number of drinks from high-end coffee shops and food chains contain dangerously high levels of sugar, according to  report from Action on Sugar, a research group based in the United Kingdom.

Some brands of flavored coffees and specialty drinks — especially medium and large cups — contain as much as 25 teaspoons of sugar (per serving), which is roughly equal to three cans of soda. “That’s the equivalent of sugar in 5 muffins,” the authors said. (When calculating the sugar in coffee drinks, the researchers also counted lactose, which is the sugar that is naturally found in milk.)

“This new research by Action on Sugar shows that 98 percent of the 131 hot flavored drinks analyzed would receive a ‘red’ (high) label for excessive levels of sugars per serving as sold,” the report stated.

Here are other highlights:
• 35 percent of flavored coffees and specialty drinks contain more sugar than an eight-ounce can of soda.
• 55 percent of the surveyed beverages contained enough sugar to equal or exceed the daily recommended amount of sugar for teens and adults.
• Some hot drinks that are marketed as “healthy” options contain 11-13 teaspoons of sugar per serving.

“This is yet again another example of scandalous amount of sugar added to our food and drink. No wonder we have the highest rates of obesity,” said Graham MacGregor, professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary University of London and chairman of Action on Sugar.

“These hot flavored drinks should be an occasional treat, not an ‘everyday’ drink,” said Kawther Hashem, registered nutritionist and researcher for Action on Sugar. “Coffee shop chains must immediately reduce the amount of sugar in these hot drinks, improve their labeling and stop selling the extra-large serving sizes.”

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