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POSTED: Monday, May 18, 2009 - 8:16am

UPDATED: Wednesday, February 17, 2010 - 3:23pm

Groundbreaking research could lead to cure for some cancer patients...

It looks like a typical medical lab.

But the work in this lab at the Roger Williams Medical Center is anything but typical.

Researchers here are trying to find a cure for a disease that has none.

"And right now with the recent award which we got, I think we have a decent chance of doing it," said researcher Dr. Richard Junghans.

A decent chance of curing metastatic, or breast cancer that's spread.

So what they're working with are t-cells.

Like the influenza virus.

"This shows a t-cell, a small cell here attached to a virus infected cell and the t-cell's doing a lot of signaling through its surface and putting holes in the cell and poof, you see like that it goes up and explodes and now the cell shrinks," said Junghans.

And it dies. Problem is our own t-cells don't recognize cancer cells.

"So our goal with this new technology is to fool the t-cells in to thinking the cancer has a virus infection," Junghans said.

So far in the lab, so good.

Now Dr. Richard Junghans says it's ready for prime time to be tested on patients.

That will involve removing t-cells from the patient.

"And then we manipulate them in the laboratory using gene therapy techniques to modify them -- we expand them and then re-introduce them back to the patient and hopefully they'll go as little marauders throughout the body anywhere the cancer is to eliminate it and cure the patient in the same way that a virus infection is cured," Junghans said.

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