Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Immune Cells, Attack! T Cells Genetically Engineered To Target Tumor Cells

In this video, T cells (purple) are vigorously attacking cancer cells (red). T cells have very important functions in the immune response. These immune cells are 'trained' to identify and respond to foreign invaders in our bodies. Cancer cells are typically included in their repertoire, as most cancer cells are abnormal enough that they are recognizable as a distinctly foreign population of cells among healthy cells; in many cancers, however, T cells lose the ability to recognize cancerous cells and fail to fight off the growing tumor.

Researchers at Adaptimmune, a company specializing in T cell therapy, extracted T cells from thirteen people with multiple myeloma, a type of cancer. Engineered genes encoding receptors that would better recognize the proteins NY-ESO-1 and LAGE-1 were then added to the extracted T cells, which were then re-injected into the patient. All thirteen patients were simultaneously given a standard treatment for multiple myeloma.

Both NY-ESO-1 and LAGE-1 are proteins that are unique to the surface of myeloma cells. The engineered receptors enabled the T cells to pick out cancer cells more efficiently, and initiate an immune response or begin attacking the cancer cells once encountered.

100 days after receiving the experimental treatment, ten of the thirteen patients were in remission (77%) while the remaining patients' conditions had improved. The 77% response rate was considered a significant improvement from the 33 to 69% response rate achieved by the standard multiple myeloma treatment alone. Although the results of the study are promising, there is still much more work to be done and more clinical trials to be conducted before the efficacy and safety of the procedure can be determined.

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