Scientists have found that a newly discovered killer immune cell type raised the possibility of producing a “universal” cancer treatment.
Scientists at Cardiff University, Wales, said the new T cells gave hope for a “one-size-fits-all” cancer.
Anti-cancer T-cell treatments, which include removing, modifying and returning immune cells to the patient’s blood to find and destroy cancer cells, are the latest model in advanced cancer treatments.
The most widely used type is known as CAR-T, and is intended for every patient, but it targets a limited number of cancers, and has failed to treat solid tumors, which make up the majority of cancers.
But scientists have now discovered T cells equipped with a new type of T cell receptor (TCR), which recognizes and kills most human cancer, while ignoring healthy cells.
The new type identifies a molecule found on the surface of a wide range of cancer cells and normal cells, and it is able to distinguish between healthy and cancerous cells, as it only kills the latter.
Professor Andrew Sewell, head of study at Cardiff University School of Medicine, said it was “extremely unusual” to find TCR with this type of cancer on a large scale, raising the possibility of “comprehensive” treatment of cancer. We hope the new TCR will provide us with a different approach to targeting and destroying a wide range of cancers in all individuals. ”
Conventional T cells scan the surface of other cells, to find anomalies and eliminate cancerous cells, while ignoring cells that contain only “normal” proteins.
The scan identifies small portions of the cellular proteins associated with cell surface molecules, called human leukocyte antigen (HLA), allowing lethal T cells to see what is happening inside the cells by scanning their surface.
But the study, published in Nature Immunology, describes TCR as unique and can recognize many types of cancer via a single HLA molecule called MR1.
Unlike HLA, the MR1 is no different between people, meaning it’s a very attractive new target for immunotherapy.
In the laboratory, T-cells equipped with the new TCR have been shown to kill lung tumors, skin, blood, colon, breast, bone, prostate, ovary, kidneys and cervix, malignant while discarding healthy cells.
To test the therapeutic potential of these cells in vivo, scientists injected T cells capable of identifying MR1 into mice with human tumors and a human immune system.
This, the research team says, has stimulated cancer elimination, in a manner similar to that of the British National Health Administration (NHS) now, in a similar animal model.
Scientists have also been able to demonstrate that T cells in patients with modified skin cancer to express the new TCR can destroy not only the patient’s own cancer cells, but also the cancer cells of other patients in the laboratory, regardless of the patient’s HLA type.
Now, scientists are experimenting with the exact molecular mechanism that distinguishes the new TCR between healthy cells and cancer. They hope to try out the new approach in patients at the end of the year.