Human T Cells

Revolutionary Technique Boosts the Potency of Human T Cells for Cancer Treatment


A groundbreaking new study by scientists at UC San Francisco (UCSF) and Northwestern Medicine has identified a technique that could significantly enhance the effectiveness of T cell therapy for cancer treatment. By studying mutations in malignant T cells that cause lymphoma, the researchers discovered a mutation that made engineered T cells remarkably potent in killing cancer cells. When this mutation was inserted into normal human T cells, the cells became over 100 times more effective in eliminating cancer cells, without any signs of toxicity. Published in the journal Nature, this groundbreaking research opens up new possibilities for the treatment of various types of cancer.

Unlike current immunotherapies that only target cancers of the blood and bone marrow, the engineered T cells created by Northwestern and UCSF showed promising results in killing tumors derived from skin, lung, and stomach in mouse models. The research team is now actively working towards testing this new approach in human subjects.

Dr. Jaehyuk Choi, associate professor of dermatology and of biochemistry and molecular genetics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, described this breakthrough as using nature’s roadmap to develop better T cell therapies. By harnessing the superpower that makes cancer cells stronger, T cell therapies can be intensified to combat previously incurable cancers.

The resilience and adaptability of cancer cells have been attributed to the presence of certain mutations. These mutations can enhance the survival and functionality of T cells in the hostile tumor microenvironment. Kole Roybal, associate professor of microbiology and immunology at UCSF, emphasized that creating effective immunotherapies remains a challenge due to the ability of tumors to create an environment that supports their growth and survival. In many cases, tumors manipulate the body’s immune system, causing it to defend the cancer rather than attack it.

Moreover, regular T cells are impaired in their ability to target cancer cells in this hostile environment, and even engineered T cells struggle to overcome the tumor’s defenses. To overcome these challenges, Roybal explained that healthy T cells need to be equipped with capabilities that go beyond their natural abilities.

To identify the most effective mutations, the teams from Northwestern and UCSF screened 71 mutations present in patients with T cell lymphoma. Among these, they isolated one mutation that was both potent and non-toxic, subjecting it to rigorous safety tests. The researchers believe that their findings have the potential to be incorporated into treatments for a wide range of cancer types.

This groundbreaking research opens up new possibilities for T cell therapy and represents a promising breakthrough in cancer treatment. By harnessing the power of naturally occurring mutations, engineered T cells can be significantly enhanced to fight against various types of cancer. As further studies and clinical trials progress, scientists are optimistic that this technique could pave the way for more effective and targeted cancer therapies in the future.


  1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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