Early results suggest the possibility of an effective treatment for all cancers
A new cancer treatment that’s able to distinguish between healthy and cancerous cells and destroy cancerous cells without harming healthy cells could result in a treatment for every kind of cancer, according to a study published in the journal Nature Immunology.
T-cells are a part of the immune system; equipped with receptors, they hunt for threats. T-cell-receptor (TCR) therapies in which T-cells are programmed by doctors to hunt and kill certain cancer cells have been gaining popularity, but their uses are currently limited. The discovery of immune cells capable of fighting the majority of cancer types could put TCR therapies at forefront in the fight against cancer.
“Current TCR-based therapies can be used only in a minority of patients with a minority of cancers,” said Andrew Sewell, lead author on the study and a professor at Cardiff University’s School of Medicine. “A single type of T-cell could be capable of destroying many different types of cancers across the population.
“Previously nobody believed this could be possible.”
The study found that the T-cells were—in lab tests—able to eliminate lung, skin, blood, colon, breast, bone, prostate, ovarian, kidney, and cervical cancer cells while not damaging healthy cells. The treatment hasn’t yet been used in human patients.
Sewell anticipates the treatment could be used in hospitals within the next few years, noting there are still “plenty of hurdles to overcome.” Researchers still have to run tests to ensure healthy cells don’t get killed during treatments.
Confusion also remains as to how these types of cells are able to distinguish cancerous and healthy cells after modification, he said.
“If this transformative new finding holds up, it will lay the foundation for a ‘universal’ T-cell medicine, mitigating against the tremendous costs associated with the identification, generation, and manufacture of personalized T-cells (required during current TCR-based therapies),” said professor Awen Gallimore of Cardiff University’s division of infection and immunity.