Cutting-edge therapy could treat all cancers
Researchers at the University of Cardiff have discovered a cell type in the body’s immune system that could help to treat cancer.
The cell is a type of T-cell, normally produced by the body that helps to recognise and kill infections and cancer cells. T-cells are already used in this country for the treatment of some cancers.
This discovery has been compared to an existing treatment used for some patients with leukaemia called CAR-T. However, the discovery of this new cell type is still years away from being a treatment for solid cancer types like pancreatic.
How would this type of immunotherapy work?
T-cells work by identifying diseased or cancerous cells in the body and killing them. They can recognise receptors on cells that signal if they are healthy or not.
Researchers involved in this study have found a new receptor (MR1) that can recognise multiple types of cancer that T–cells can then kill. The team’s research involved testing in mice and human cancers samples. In all cases, the T-cells were able to identify cancer cells from healthy ones and kill them.
This therapy could follow a similar treatment regimen to current immunotherapy. Blood can be taken from a patient and cells are given the ability to recognise MR1 and therefore which cells are cancerous or not. These cells are then injected back into a patient as a treatment.
What happens next?
This research is in very early stages and has so far not been conducted in humans. Researchers are not yet sure how the MR1 receptor works and why it allows T-cells to tell the difference between healthy and cancerous cells. This will need to be understood, and the safety of the therapy tested before it can be used as a treatment.
The research team is hopeful that this kind of immunotherapy could eventually be trialled in multiple cancer types, however, no tests have yet been carried out with pancreatic cancer cells. This would need to take place in laboratory and animal studies before clinical trials to treat patients could begin and may be several years away. There are four stages of clinical research. This study is in the second stage: preclinical trials. (please pop in a link to research pages here, thanks)
Trials with mice
Genetically mice and humans are similar. Therefore, trials like this almost always have to take place in mice or a similar animal to ensure the treatment is safe for human testing.