Researchers at Cardiff University’s School of Medicine have discovered a new method for killing an array of cancers such as prostate, breast, lung, and others. The group of investigators, based in Wales, has developed a process that utilizes T-cell receptors within the immune system. They have found one particular T cell inside the blood that attacks a range of cancers.
A Novel Course
To date, this new method developed in the UK has never been studied on humans, and the research team is bursting with enthusiastic energy. Why? They have found results from setting up a control group by taking a cancer cell line that precluded any bacteria and found that these actual cell lines activated certain immune cells. This surprised the researchers as they assumed it would be the cancer cells loaded with bacteria that would be the catalyst. These findings were published in Nature Immunology.
Preclinical Research (Mouse Model)
So, the Wales-based team set up the study to take a human cancer cell line and then infuse into a mouse—where the cell thereafter attaches itself—and found that the cancer in the mouse was cleared out. The actual survival rate in the mouse was extended by weeks—a long time for mice.
Speculation for the Future in Humans
The researchers reported it is “Very early to talk about actually taking it to patients”. However, they speculate that at some point they will be able to administer into a patient—without the need to expand their immune cells with the goal of condensing the time span for treating patients.
What is Slowing down the Development of Universal Treatment
Well, it turns out that a subset of proteins called HLA represents a big obstacle for treatment. A subset of proteins associated with T cells, the challenge is that all individual’s HLA’s are unique, and because this HLA is critically associated for the T cells to recognize cancer—and hence attack it—when the individual receives another immune cell, the HLA will be foreign and won’t work. Hence the importance of universal targets for T cells is critical yet complex. But with this new research, they have found the MR1 protein a mirror to the others; hence the “HLA problem” goes away.
Michael Crowther Postdoctoral Researcher, Center for Cancer Immune Therapy
For other authors, see the study published in Nature Immunology.
Call to Action: The research team now has two research initiatives to do, including 1) study more immune cells from patients and place in a new receptor to determine if the new process remains safe in the lab with their healthy cells as well as the individual’s cancer cells and hence, determine the approach only terminates cancer cells; and 2) investigate what is the dynamic of these cancers to be recognized by this immune cell. Note the researcher has moved on to the National Center for Cancer Immune Therapy at Herlev Hospital in Denmark.