CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- A new brain tumor discovery at the University of Virginia Health System could point to way better treatment options, which is making doctors hopeful for the future.

The new therapy would extract a small number of white blood cells called T-cells from a patient's blood, then genetically modify them to kill cancer. 

Those cells are then infused back into the patient, where they replicate into a vast army of cancer killers. 

The entire process would take two weeks, instead of the months or years that are needed for current treatments and procedures.

"We hope it's not too distant future, within the next two years. Because we have all the infrastructure here at UVA to be able to make a clinical-grade CAR T-cell product that we can then give the patient to enroll in a clinical study here,” said Dr. Daniel “Trey” Lee, a UVA oncologist spearheading the research.

With this new therapy, doctors could enable CAR-T cell immunotherapy to treat two forms of brain cancer that are almost always fatal: glioblastoma and diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, or DIPG.

Researchers say both of these types of brain tumors lack effective treatments and have low survival rates.

Previously, this type of immunotherapy had had success in fighting blood cancer, but it was less effective against solid tumors, like those in brain cancer. These new findings could enhance this treatment's ability to target solid tumors.

When it was tested in mice, the new approach exploiting specific targets on the solid tumors caused those tumors to shrink or disappear, improving survival rates among lab mice, and these effects appeared to be long-lasting.

The researchers say many solid tumors share similar vulnerabilities that can be exploited, and though more invasive types will likely still pose challenges, they are encouraged by the results of this study.

The researchers hope to start clinical trials in the next few years.

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