MAY 31, 2021 6:00 AM PDT

Engineering Faster, More Agile T Cell Cancer Fighters

WRITTEN BY: Tara Fernandez

Cell therapies use engineered T cells extracted from the patient’s own immune system to rally an attack on tumors. Such immunotherapies have been successful for treating “liquid cancers” such as leukemia, but the physical characteristics of solid tumors make them difficult for engineered cytotoxic T cells to infiltrate and eliminate these masses.

"The tumor is sort of like an obstacle course, and the T cell has to run the gauntlet to reach the cancer cells," said Paolo Provenzano, senior author of a research paper recently published in Nature Communications.

"These T cells get into tumors, but they just can't move around well, and they can't go where they need to go before they run out of gas and are exhausted."

In a first-of-its-kind study, Provenzano and colleagues sought to develop a method of engineering T cells using genome editing technology such that they are able to more effectively penetrate and destroy solid tumors.

"This study is our first publication where we have identified some structural and signaling elements where we can tune these T cells to make them more effective cancer fighters," explained Provenzano.

"Every 'obstacle course' within a tumor is slightly different, but there are some similarities. After engineering these immune cells, we found that they moved through the tumor almost twice as fast no matter what obstacles were in their way."

The team created subsets of specialized engineered T cells, each with unique capabilities for navigating different structural and physiological barriers to get to the malignant cells. They did this by adapting the T cells’ microtubules—building blocks of the cytoskeleton that provide cells with structure and shape—such that the cells can migrate faster and more efficiently into cancerous tissues.

The team continues to take a closer look at the mechanical properties of tumor cells using engineered nanotextured elastic platforms. In this way, they hope to create more targeted approaches to making cell-based immunotherapies more potent for solid cancers.

"Using a cell engineering approach to fight cancer is a relatively new field," commented Provenzano. "It allows for a very personalized approach with applications for a wide array of cancers. We feel we are expanding a new line of research to look at how our own bodies can fight cancer. This could have a big impact in the future."

 


Sources: Nature Communications, University of Minnesota Twin Cities.

About the Author
  • Tara Fernandez has a PhD in Cell Biology and has spent over a decade uncovering the molecular basis of diseases ranging from skin cancer to obesity and diabetes. She currently works on developing and marketing disruptive new technologies in the biotechnology industry. Her areas of interest include innovation in molecular diagnostics, cell therapies, and immunology. She actively participates in various science communication and public engagement initiatives to promote STEM in the community.
You May Also Like
AUG 24, 2021
Immunology
Women Produce More COVID Antibodies Than Men
AUG 24, 2021
Women Produce More COVID Antibodies Than Men
An exploration into the human immune response after a COVID-19 infection has revealed a surprising finding: women produc ...
AUG 25, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Sino Biological's Listing on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange
AUG 25, 2021
Sino Biological's Listing on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange
China, August 16, 2021 - Sino Biological, Inc. (“Sino Biological” or the “Company”), a biot ...
SEP 14, 2021
Immunology
Extinguishing Fires in the Brains of MS Patients
SEP 14, 2021
Extinguishing Fires in the Brains of MS Patients
  A closer look at the brains of patients with aggressive, debilitating forms of multiple sclerosis (MS) reveals so ...
SEP 23, 2021
Cardiology
Curbing Adverse Cardiovascular Outcomes Through Influenza Vaccination
SEP 23, 2021
Curbing Adverse Cardiovascular Outcomes Through Influenza Vaccination
Influenza is a severe infectious disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the H1N1 strain of ...
OCT 19, 2021
Immunology
Mild COVID Produces Better Than Expected Antibody Responses
OCT 19, 2021
Mild COVID Produces Better Than Expected Antibody Responses
Over millions of years, the immune system has evolved to shield us against disease-causing pathogens that we encounter e ...
OCT 19, 2021
Immunology
Reverse Vaccinations Tame the Immune System to Help Hemophilia Patients
OCT 19, 2021
Reverse Vaccinations Tame the Immune System to Help Hemophilia Patients
In patients with hemophilia A—a hereditary disorder where the blood cannot clot properly—their immune system ...
Loading Comments...