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Christiana Care's gene editing doc on first CRISPR clinical trial in US

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Doctors at Christiana Care Health System’s Helen F. Graham Cancer Center are saying 2019 and 2020 will be breakout years for the gene editing technique known as CRISPR.

The first clinical trials in the United States using CRISPR were recently performed in Philadelphia by doctors at the University of Pennsylvania treating cancer patients. This comes months after doctors in China announced they had used the technique to genetically modify human babies to be resistant to HIV.

Dr. Eric Kmiec is the Director of Christiana Care’s Gene Editing Institute. He says the germline gene editing used by the Chinese has not been approved in the United States.

“What they did in China was to modify a fertilized egg so that the child itself was born with the modification,” said Kmiec. “We’re just attacking, in our case, lung cancer cells, and at Penn they’re making cells that already exist in the body to fight the cancer.”

Kmiec says Penn has been the leader in modifying a naturally occurring immune defense known as T-cells to combat malignant tumors.

He also says Christiana Care is still working towards clinical trials for its CRISPR technique to treat lung cancer, and he expects the breakthrough for Penn to make that process even easier.

“As these things move through the FDA, get approved and get out into the public, a lot of the mystique around CRISPR will begin to abate and we could see some really good results,” said Kmiec.

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