Scientists have developed a new technique that makes human T cells more than 100 times more potent at killing cancer cells.
Human T cells, key players in the immune system, hold immense potential in the quest for a cancer cure. These versatile white blood cells can be harnessed to recognize and destroy cancer cells. By enhancing their natural abilities or genetically modifying them, researchers aim to develop innovative immunotherapies that unleash the power of T cells against cancer, offering hope for effective treatments.
By studying mutations in malignant T cells that cause lymphoma, the researchers at UC San Francisco (UCSF) and Northwestern Medicine identified a specific mutation that significantly enhanced the killing ability of engineered T cells. They inserted a gene encoding this unique mutation into normal human T cells, resulting in T cells that were highly effective at killing cancer cells without becoming toxic.
Engineered T cells have shown promise in immunotherapy, but they have limitations. Tumors create an environment that sustains themselves and redirects resources away from the immune system, making it difficult for regular T cells to target cancer cells. Additionally, engineered T cells can tire quickly against the tumor's defenses. To overcome these limitations, the researchers sought to give healthy T cells abilities beyond their natural capabilities. By incorporating the unique mutation found in malignant T cells, they were able to create T cells that were highly potent and non-toxic .
The engineered T cells developed by the UCSF and Northwestern teams were able to kill tumors derived from skin, lung, and stomach in mice. This suggests that the technique has the potential to be effective against various types of cancer, not just blood and bone marrow cancers targeted by current immunotherapies. The researchers believe that their discoveries can be incorporated into treatments for many types of cancer, offering potential cures for heavily pretreated patients with poor prognoses.
The researchers have already begun working towards testing this new approach in humans. They are also building a new company called Moonlight Bio to further develop and realize the potential of their groundbreaking technique. The goal is to create a cancer therapy that can provide long-term immunity against cancer. The researchers see this as just the starting point and believe that there is much to learn from nature about enhancing T cells and tailoring them to different types of diseases .
This breakthrough has the potential to overcome the limitations of current immunotherapies and offer new treatment options for various types of cancer.