MAR 18, 2021 10:32 AM PDT

New Cancer Immunotherapy Targets Genetic Alteration in All Cancers

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Researchers have developed a prototype for a new kind of cancer immunotherapy. The therapy uses engineered T-cells to target a genetic alteration common among all cancers. 

We inherit one version of each gene, known as alleles, from each parent. Often, cancer-related genetic alterations involve the loss of one of these alleles, meaning some cells express just one copy of a gene rather than two. Although a known hallmark of cancer, until now, it has not been possible to hone in on these genes with drugs as the missing allele meant there was nothing for the drugs to target. 

Recent advances in immunotherapy and the ability to engineer cancer-fighting T cells to be activated via chimeric antigen receptor (CARs) and then deactivated with inhibitory CARs, however, may change this. With these emerging approaches, researchers can now target missing genes with T cell therapies.

CARs are receptors that are engineered to bind to certain antigens that appear on the surface of cancer cells. In the new approach, known as neoplasm-targeting allele-sensing CAR (NASCAR), CAR binds to and kills cells with missing genes. 

NASCAR T cells are engineered to express both activating molecules (CAR) and inhibitory molecules (iCAR). The cells rely on a 'NOT' gate- a term that describes negating the signal of an input- to switch the T cell on or off. As such, it can instruct T-cells on how to behave when encountering both normal cells (with both gene copies) and cancer cells (with a missing gene copy). 

This means that if both genes are present in a cell, the inhibitory molecule is activated in the engineered T-cell, and it is ultimately left unharmed. However, if only one gene copy is detected in a given cell, the engineered cells activate, and kill it. 

"In normal cells where both alleles are present and expressed, the NASCAR T cells simultaneously receive both on and off signals that - in essence - cancel each other out," explains Michael Hwang, Ph.D., first author of the paper. "However, in cancer, one allele is lost, so there is no inhibitory or off signal." 

So far, the researchers have successfully tested their new NASCAR therapy on three independent cell lines and in mice models. While the researchers say that their study provides a 'proof-of-principle' of their new approach to kill cancer cells, they say that further research over several more years is needed before it can be used in a clinical setting. 

 

Sources: News MedicalPNAS

About the Author
  • Science writer with a keen interest in behavioral biology, consciousness medicine and technology. Her current focus is how the interplay of these fields can create meaningful interactions, products and environments.
You May Also Like
JAN 13, 2021
Immunology
Antibodies Gain the Upper Hand Against Sly Tumors
JAN 13, 2021
Antibodies Gain the Upper Hand Against Sly Tumors
Tumors use ingenious approaches to stay just out of reach of immune cells on patrol and avoid detection. Indeed, cancer ...
FEB 07, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
Beta-Blockers Can Repair Broken Blood Vessels
FEB 07, 2021
Beta-Blockers Can Repair Broken Blood Vessels
Propranolol is a drug that can treat infantile haemangiomas but was found to also treat a blood vessel condition that le ...
FEB 24, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
How Caffeine Changes the Brain?
FEB 24, 2021
How Caffeine Changes the Brain?
Caffeine is the worlds most consumed psychoactive substance which includes coffee, cola or an energy drink. However, res ...
MAR 02, 2021
Immunology
Another Trick up Tumors' Sleeves Exposed
MAR 02, 2021
Another Trick up Tumors' Sleeves Exposed
Tumors have sneaky strategies for establishing themselves within healthy tissues, flourishing in plain sight of circulat ...
MAR 09, 2021
Cannabis Sciences
Cannabis Alleviates Neuropathic Pain from Chemotherapy
MAR 09, 2021
Cannabis Alleviates Neuropathic Pain from Chemotherapy
Neuropathic pain from oxaliplatin-based chemotherapy regimens occurs in up to 90% of patients, and continued exposure to ...
MAR 30, 2021
Cardiology
Looking at a Fertility Drug's Cardiac Safety
MAR 30, 2021
Looking at a Fertility Drug's Cardiac Safety
New drugs go through a long and arduous process before they can grace a doctor’s office. One of the last steps is ...
Loading Comments...