Immune Therapy Gets a Boost From The Princess Margaret Research Team



A molecule, engineered by a research team led by Princess Margaret Cancer Centre Senior Scientist Dr. Naoto Hirano, may have the potential to enhance the effectiveness of existing immune therapies. The findings were published yesterday in the prestigious journal Nature Medicine. The type of immune therapy relevant to Dr. Hirano's work is known as chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy – a therapy that helps patients' own immune cells, known as T-cells, to identify and fight cancer cells.

CAR T-cell therapies help the immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells. A patient’s T-cells are isolated and genetically modified to produce the CAR molecule on their surface. Once enough cells are grown in a lab they are infused back into the patient, now with the ability to tell the immune system which cells in the body are cancerous.
Dr. Naoto Hairo
"Once they are infused back into patients, CAR T-cells grow, multiply and are able to target and kill cancer cells, but there are many roadblocks," Dr. Hirano says.

Currently, CAR T-cell therapy has only been approved in the United States for blood cancers such as advanced lymphoma and acute lymphoblastic leukemia. To make the therapy more effective, Dr. Hirano's team engineered a CAR molecule that activates specific signalling pathways known to enhance the growth and function of T-cells. This will make the cells more effective in supporting the continued destruction of cancer cells in a patient’s body.

While these findings are preliminary, the performance of the engineered CAR T-cells created by Dr. Hirano's team suggest that optimizing CAR molecules may increase the effectiveness of CAR T-cell therapies and allow them to be used against different cancers. Future work will focus on determining the safety and efficacy of the engineered CAR molecule through clinical trials.

Read the original story on UHN 

This work was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, BioCanRX, the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, the Government of Ontario, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Takara Bio, Inc., and The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation.​