One of the most promising new treatments to fight cancer is immunotherapy, according tomedia. Despite the promising future, the treatment is not entirely risk-free, but now scientists have developed an emergency brake drug that can stop treatment once the disease starts to get out of control.
Normally, the immune system would do a good job of patrolling the body for something that shouldn’t exist, but cancer has its own ways of hiding itself. Immunotherapy includes training immune cells to better detect and eliminate cancer. One of the most advanced forms is chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy. This includes extracting the patient’s T-cells — the infantry of the immune system — and modifying them to identify cancers and send them back to the body. Some forms of CAR T-cell therapy have been approved by the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) and extensively tested in human clinical trials, with preliminary results showing promise.
But it does cause some rather serious dangerous situations. It has been known that in some cases, modified T-cells become a little overactive and begin to attack healthy cells, which can damage organs and potentially kill patients. The death during the trial left scientists resusing and prompted calls to cancel treatment when the problem showed first signs.
That’s exactly what researchers from EPFL, the Ludwig Institute of Cancer Research (UNIL) of the University of Lausanne and the University Hospital of Lausanne (CHUV) are aiming for.
The team adapted existing CAR T cell therapy techniques, in which they created a loophole — interrupting treatment by exploiting it if needed.
To shut down the process, the researchers made changes to the design of the receptor so that the attack signal could be interrupted by a particular molecule. In the event of an adverse reaction, the molecule can be suspended as a separate drug.
Bruno Correia, the study’s lead author, said the real advantage of the system is that if they stop using the molecule, they can reactivate T cells. “If T-cells pose a threat to the patient’s health, there is no need to destroy them. This system allows us to precisely control the effectiveness of immunotherapy. “
This treatment is called STOP-CAR. Researchers in mice with prostate cancer showed that the technique successfully ended a round of CAR T-cell therapy.
Stop-CAR not only directly saves lives, but it should also help accelerate the development of other CAR T-cell therapies, which are currently at great risk of being tested in humans, according to researchers.