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Cancer Cure News Update 2017: New CAR T-Cell Therapy Clears Cancer of Terminal Lymphoma Patients

Cancer Cure News Update 2017: New CAR T-Cell Therapy Clears Cancer of Terminal Lymphoma Patients

New gene-modification based therapy makes significant progress in cancer treatment. | (Photo: Pixabay/Parentingupstream)

United States pharmaceutical company Kite Pharma has released results from the initial half-year trial of its new chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell treatment, resulting in complete remission in 36 percent of the 101 patients in the trial. Since then, new gene-editing tools have improved on the CAR T cells, making them more effective at killing tumor cells.

CAR T cells are special white blood cells genetically altered to carry chimeric antigen receptors, which enable them to recognize and attack tumor cells that unmodified T cells will ignore in cancer patients. The T cells are filtered from the patient's blood, gene-modified to recognize cancer cells, then re-introduced to the patient's system where they go to work, according to Telegraph.

Looking for ways to improve on the CAR T-cell therapy that is currently having remarkable success in clinical trials, the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center has turned to a genome-editing technique using "clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats" (CRISPR), prokaryotic deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) fragments. Combined with smaller helper sequences called the CRISPR-associated system or CAS, the system called CRISPR/Cas can be used to create more potent T cells faster and with more precision, according to Cancer.gov.

Michael Sadelain, M.D., Ph.D. of Sloan Kettering have turned to a simpler variation of the CRISPR/Cas technique called CRISPR/Cas9 to address the difficulties with conventional approaches to engineering T cells, such as using a retrovirus. Instead of the random gene insertion points that characterize the usual methods, the new system can deliver the CAR gene fragment precisely where they need it — the T-cell receptor alpha chain (TRAC) gene.

The results are more effective batches of CAR T cells that are more stable than the conventionally engineered ones. "Expressing the CAR from the TRAC locus greatly diminished exhaustion, resulting in superior tumor eradication," Dr. Sadelain said.

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This new development will further boost the exciting results of the CAR T-cell therapy currently on trial. Kite Pharma has published the result of their initial six-month trial of the new therapy, resulting in cancer remission for over a third of their subjects with aggressive non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

"The numbers are fantastic," said Dr. Fred Locke, blood cancer expert and co-leader of the study. "These are heavily treated patients who have no other options," he continued.

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