Scientists discover new T-cell for ‘universal’ cancer therapy

In a new study, researchers have discovered a new type of killer T-cell that offers hope of “one-size-fits-all” cancer therapy.

The research was conducted by a team at Cardiff University.

T-cell therapies for cancer—where immune cells are removed, modified and returned to the patient’s blood to seek and destroy cancer cells—are the latest paradigm in cancer treatments.

The most widely used therapy, known as CAR-T, is personalized to each patient but targets only a few types of cancers and has not been successful for solid tumors, which make up the vast majority of cancers.

In the study, the Cardiff researchers discovered T-cells equipped with a new type of T-cell receptor (TCR) which recognizes and kills most human cancer types, while ignoring healthy cells.

This TCR recognizes a molecule present on the surface of a wide range of cancer cells as well as in many of the body’s normal cells but, remarkably, is able to distinguish between healthy cells and cancerous ones, killing only the latter.

The researchers said this meant it offered “exciting opportunities for pan-cancer, pan-population” immunotherapies not previously thought possible.

They were further able to show that T-cells of melanoma patients modified to express this new TCR could destroy not only the patient’s own cancer cells but also other patients’ cancer cells in the laboratory.

The findings raise the prospect of “universal” cancer therapy. The researchers hope this new TCR may provide us with a different route to target and destroy a wide range of cancers in all individuals.

They hope to trial this new approach in patients towards the end of this year following further safety testing.

The lead author of the study is Professor Andrew Sewell, an expert in T-cells from Cardiff University’s School of Medicine.

The study is published in Nature Immunology.

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