The research shows that it could treat all kinds of tumours, and opens up the prospect of immunotherapy treatments helping many more cancer patients in the future.
In theory cancer can be tackled by elements of the body's own immune defences, especially white blood cells called T-cells.
But in practice, T-cells that target and kill cancer cells while ignoring healthy cells are very rare, and progress towards immune-based cancer treatments has been limited.
The new approach provides a way to reprogramme T-cells and create large numbers of them "off the shelf" primed to attack specific cancers.
A small number of healthy human T-cells were first reprogrammed into malleable stem cells with embryonic properties, US scientists reported in the journal Nature Biotechnology.
These induced pluripotent stem cells (iPScs) were then engineered to produce a tumour-specific receptor molecule on their surfaces.
Finally, the stem cells were coaxed to re-acquire their original T-cell properties while expanding to large numbers.
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Kristopher Cook, 28, was accused of faking brain cancer in a scam to get money from well-wishers. Cook allegedly made $7,500 before being caught. In jail, Cook was reportedly beaten within 24 hours and suffered a lacerated spleen and broken nose.
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Jessica Vega, 25, was charged with fraud after she allegedly scammed over $13,000 in a fake cancer scheme to pay for her wedding and honeymoon. Vega told friends and family, including her then-fiance, that she was dying of leukemia and faked doctors' notes. The couple divorced, then later got back together. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/25/jessica-vega-admits-faking-cancer_n_1453474.html" target="_blank">Read the full story here.</a>
Martha Nicholas, a 44-year-old mother mother of two, was arrested in 2011 on charges of obtaining money under false pretenses when she claimed to have cancer. Police said there was no evidence of her ever having cancer. Nicholas made over $10,000 and convinced her children, ages 10 and 13, that she was dying. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/11/martha-nicholas-fake-cancer-arrested_n_1142187.html" target="_blank">Read the full story here.</a>
Sara Ylen, 38, allegedly convinced her congregation to hold a fundraiser for her after claiming to have cancer with only 6 months to live. A blood test showed she did not, in fact, have cancer. Ylen was charged with fraud and false pretenses <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/09/sara-ylen-cancer_n_3569761.html" target="_blank">Read the full story here</a>
Lori Stilley, 40, allegedly told friends and family she had bladder cancer in a scam to have a dream wedding. Stilley made more than $10,000 An investigation found that She had never been treated for nor diagnosed with cancer, prosecutors said. Stilley was charged with theft by deception. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/27/lori-stilley-fake-cancer_n_1918694.html#slide=1574733" target="_blank">Read the full story here </a>
Each of the T-cells now had the all-important receptor that allowed it to target a particular cancer "antigen" or protein, in this case lymphoma.
Injected into mice with a human form of lymphoma, the lab-grown T-cells significantly suppressed tumour growth and increased survival.
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The researchers, led by Dr Michel Sadelain from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre in New York City, wrote: "In summary, the combination of.. technologies that we describe here offers a potential new source of off-the-shelf T-cells of pre-determined antigen specificity.
"Considering the versatility of pluripotent stem cells.. this system may facilitate production of different T-cell sub-populations with additional genetic modifications and specificities for a range of therapeutic indications."