Advanced pancreatic cancer: is killer cell-based immunotherapy a potential cure?

Advanced pancreatic cancer: is killer cell-based immunotherapy a potential cure?
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New cell-based immunotherapy research led to the eradication of advanced pancreatic cancer cells, including cancer cells that had already spread to the liver and lungs.

According to research conducted at Queen Mary University of London, UK, a new promising approach in treating advanced pancreatic cancer using cell-based immunotherapy has revealed promising results.

What you need to know about cell-based immunotherapy

The study, published in the journal Gut, involved a team from Queen Mary University using pancreatic cancer cells from patients with late-stage disease, and transplanted them into mice.

The immune cells of the patients were then taken and modified to specifically identify and eliminate the cancer cells – creating ‘educated killer cells’, or CAR-T cells.

Furthermore, for the first time, the research team introduced a new technology that allowed them to completely control the activity of CAR-T cells, therefore making them potentially safer.

New cell-based immunotherapy

The team developed a new ‘switchable’ CAR-T system, which means that the treatment can be turned on and off, or have its activity changed to a desired level. This makes the therapy extremely safe, therefore minimising the side effects and improving the safety of the treatment.

“Our work suggests that our new ‘switchable’ CAR-T cells could be administered to human patients with pancreatic cancer, and we could control their activity at a level that kills the tumour without toxic side effects to normal tissues.” Explains Dr Deepak Raj, Queen Mary University of London.

The actions of the treatment were controlled through administration or withdrawal of the ‘switch’ molecule within living mice, without affecting the ability of the treatment to kill cells of the advanced pancreatic cancer.

Advanced pancreatic cancer

Each year around 9,800 people in the UK are diagnosed with the cancer.

Pancreatic cancer is incredibly aggressive and has one of the lowest survival rates of all cancers.

This is typically due to the fact that it is often diagnosed at a late and advanced stage, when the tumour has already spread to other organs.

“Immunotherapy using CAR-T cells has been tremendously successful in blood cancers, but unfortunately, there have been toxic side effects in its treatment of solid tumours.” Says Raj.

“Given the dismal prognosis of pancreatic cancer with conventional treatments, it’s vitally important that we develop safe and effective CAR-T cell therapies for solid tumours, such as pancreatic cancer.”

For more than 40 years too little progress has been made on developing new treatments for this devastating disease, for which survival remains unacceptably low.

Nevertheless , from such successful results of this research, the team now hopes to bring this promising therapy to the clinic.

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