Modify human immune cells to kill cancer cells

The cells of a select group of the immune system can be modified to dramatically increase their efficiency, making them selectively kill cancer cells. This has been proven in recent research.

The team of Ana Portillo and Ali Ashkar, both from McMaster University in Canada, has achieved that, in their modified version, the cells of the immune system known as “natural killers” efficiently distinguish between cancer cells and healthy cells that are usually intermingled in and around tumors, killing only cancer cells.

The high ability to distinguish between cancer cells and healthy cells, which can have very similar chemical markers, brings new promise to this branch of immunotherapy.

This new experimental treatment is an alternative to CAR-T cell therapy, which received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2017. The modified T cells used in CAR-T therapy are very effective against some blood-borne cancers, but apart from this, in many cases they cannot distinguish between cancerous and non-cancerous cells, so while they offer important benefits, they are not uniformly applicable to all forms of cancer. In patients with solid tumors, these T cells can cause devastating, even fatal, side effects.

Portillo and Ashkar’s team set out to find a treatment with the same potency as that of CAR-T, but that could be used safely against cancers with solid tumors.

Ana Portillo and Ali Ashkar. (Photo: McMaster University)

Judging by the good results that researchers have obtained in their experiments with CAR-NK cells acting selectively against tumor cells derived from breast cancer patients, they have found a good path towards their goal. The new technique is promising.

The next step in bringing the therapy closer to medical use is conducting human clinical trials, something the researchers are now organizing. (Source: NCYT from Amazings)

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