Engineered T cells could assassinate solid tumor cells, Tel Aviv University medical researchers find.
Immunotherapy is a promising cancer treatment that enhances the natural immune response.
A new study led by Dr. Yaron Carmi of Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine finds that a form of immunotherapy — chimeric antigen receptors (CAR) T-cell therapy, used to treat the blood cancer leukemia– may work against other kinds of cancer as well.
“Chemotherapy damages all fast-growing cells, including hair follicles and cells that line the gastrointestinal tract, and this attack on healthy cells causes serious side effects, which include hair loss, nausea, mood changes, pain, anemia, nerve and muscle problems, and kidney issues,” explained Carmi.
“Immunotherapy, on the other hand, uses the body’s own immune system to seek out and destroy cancer cells. Engineered T cells have been proven very successful in treating blood cancer but attempts to use them to fight solid cancers have been disappointing,” he said. “Our engineered cells have now shown efficacy in attacking solid tumors as well.”
T cells are a type of white blood cell that is essential to the immune response. CAR T-cell therapy uses T cells collected from the patient and modified in the lab to attach to a specific antigen on the tumor cells and kill them.
“Our lab discovered a distinct subset of helper T cells, also known as CD4+ T cells, that express the high-affinity receptor for IgG [an antibody] and efficiently kill tumor cells coated with these antibodies,” explained Carmi. “This method uses CAR T-cell therapy and combines it with antibody specificity. Based on this discovery we were able to engineer novel T cells with enhanced tumor-killing activity and higher specificity, compared with other T cell-based therapies for cancer.”
Carmi said this finding demonstrates that the immune system can be utilized to identify and fight all types of cancer.The researchers are testing their configuration of engineered T cells in preclinical mouse models of cancer and in human samples.