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Ultimate Cancer Treatment

Jan 20, 2020 by Ameer Helles

Cardiff University researchers discovered a new method of killing a wide variety of cancers by using immune system T-cell receptors (TCRs).

The team's method involves a new type of TCR that is capable of detecting a molecule on the surface of cancer cells. The molecule, called MR1, is still found in other cells of the body, but the current TCR only attacks and destroys cancer cells.

“Current TCR-based therapies can only be used in a minority of patients with a minority of cancers. Cancer-targeting via MR1-restricted T-cells is an exciting new frontier - it raises the prospect of a ‘one-size-fits-all’ cancer treatment; a single type of T-cell that could be capable of destroying many different types of cancers across the population. Previously nobody believed this could be possible,”

said Cardiff's Andrew Sewell, PhD, a professor of infection and immunity.
Photo credit: National Institutes of Health (NIH) on Visualhunt / CC BY-NC

T-cell cancer therapies operate by having the patient's immune cells from the plasma under some molecular modifications to attack cancerous tumors then given back to the patient. Current T-cell therapies, which include CAR-T, are still ineffective against solid tumors, which make up most cancers.

Detailed in a study issued in Nature Immunology, the technique of killing lung, skin, blood, colon, breast, bone, ovarian prostate, kidney and cervical cancer cells while ignoring healthy cells has been demonstrated. The research was tested in animal models of mice with human cancer and human immune system cells.

The Cardiff Community hopes to test this new method in patients by the end of this year after additional health tests. Sewell emphasized that a crucial aspect of this ongoing safety test was to further ensure that killer T cells modified with the new TCR attack cancer cells particularly.

“There are plenty of hurdles to overcome however if this testing is successful, then I would hope this new treatment could be in use in patients in a few years’ time,” said Professor Sewell.


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