Researchers discover a new target for immunotherapy

Monday 5 March 2018

Researchers design immune cells to target a protein found on two thirds of glioblastomas, the most common and lethal primary brain tumour

The preclinical study, recently published in the Science Translational Medicine, was led by researchers from University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Centre. It is part of a programme that aims to develop personalised immune-based treatments called CAR-T cell therapy.

CAR-T cell therapy, which stands for chimeric antigen receptor T cell therapy, involves taking immune cells known as T-cells and genetically engineering them to recognise and destroy cells expressing specific proteins. This type of therapy uses the patient's own immune system to fight their cancer. CAR-T cell therapy is approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and has been used successfully to treat blood cancers such as childhood leukaemia and some lymphomas.

This research focused on how CAR-T cell therapy could successfully be used to treat glioblastoma. Individuals diagnosed with glioblastoma have the poorest survival rate, as conventional treatments only improve survival by, on average, 18 months, making it imperative to conduct research to find new treatments.

In this study, researchers found that a protein called chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan 4 (CSPG4) was highly expressed in 67% of the glioblastoma brain tumour samples collected. The study confirmed that T-cells genetically engineered to recognise CSPG4, controlled the growth of tumour cells both in the lab and in mice.

"This approach was very potent in vitro and in murine studies," said Professor Dotti, co-senior author of the study. "While it didn't cure all of the tumours, we think it is very promising as a single agent, and also could be studied in combination with other investigational approaches."

The researchers aim to launch clinical trials to test this treatment in patients with recurring glioblastoma.