New research shows that an immunotherapy called CAR-T cell therapy – currently only effective in treating blood cancer – has the potential to treat solid tumours, such as brain tumours
The study, recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was led by Dr Misty Jenkins from the Walter and Eliza Institute of Medical Research, Australia. It explains the manner in which CAR-T cell therapy is able to target and kill cancer cells.
Chimeric antigen receptor T (CAR-T) cells are synthetically engineered T cells, which are a type of immune cell. CAR-T cells can recognise cancer cells and direct 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.
However, CAR-T cell therapy has had mixed results in treating solid tumours, as the treatment causes serious side effects such as a potentially fatal inflammatory response. The inflammatory response is caused due to the immune cells being attached to the cancer cells for an extended period of time.
The study demonstrated a mechanism through which the immune cells can be detached from the cancerous cells faster, thereby decreasing the inflammatory response.
This research focused on how CAR-T cell therapy could successfully be used to treat brain cancers. Individuals diagnosed with primary brain tumours have the poorest survival rate relative to other cancers and require news treatment approaches.
“Our research is teaching us how to make CAR-T cells even more efficient, and without the toxic side effects, so that we can safely extend the therapy to cover a broader range of cancers,” said Dr Jenkins.
“Finding an optimum design for CAR-T cell therapy where we can kill tumour cells with limited invasion, inflammation and side effects could significantly improve the treatment of brain cancer.”
Furthermore, with CAR-T therapy already approved by the FDA, it can be translated into clinical use for brain tumours faster relative to developing new therapies.