Genome Editing Enhances T-Cells For Cancer Immunotherapy

Source: Cardiff University

Summary: Researchers have found a way to enhance the cancer-destroying ability of the T-cells which are a part of the human immune system.

T-cells being the part of immune system helps to fight off bacterial and viral infections. Some T-cells even have the ability to attack cancer cells. The so-called immunotherapies are developed by augmenting and harnessing the anti-cancer activity of body’s own T-cells. These immunotherapies have transformed the field of cancer treatment, even giving hope to the final stage disease patients. Researchers from Cardiff University boosted the cancer-killing ability of the T-cells by using CRISPR genome editing. The team took the genetic engineering process of killer T-cells a step further, where they removed their non-cancer specific receptors and replaced them with those which recognize specific cancer cells and destroy them. The study findings were published in the journal Blood.

T- lymphocytes

Scanning electron micrograph of a human T lymphocyte (also called a T cell) from the immune system of a healthy donor. Credit: NIAID

Till now, T-cells engineered to fight cancer had 2 kinds of receptors – therapeutic one (artificially added) and the one naturally exists. As there is only limited space on a cell for receptors, the cancer-specific receptors have to compete with the cell’s own receptors to execute their function, which means they never reach their full potential as cancer killers. But the current T-cells which are made by genome editing do not have their own T-cells receptors (natural ones) and therefore the only receptor they can use is the one specific for cancer. These new engineered T-cells can be 1000 times better at seeing and killing cancer when compared to the cells generated with previous methods.

Prof. Andrew Sewell said, “The improvement in the sensitivity of cancer recognition that can be achieved by editing out the existing natural receptor and then replacing it with one that sees cancer cells is remarkable. Future clinical applications are likely to now make use of this advancement.”

More Information: Mateusz Legut et al, “CRISPR-mediated TCR replacement superior generates superior anti-cancer transgenic T-cells”, Blood (2017). DOI: 10.1182/blood-2017-05-787598


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