Published: Tue, January 21, 2020
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

New T-cells ‘raise prospect of universal cancer therapy’

New T-cells ‘raise prospect of universal cancer therapy’

The researchers at Cardiff University utilized CRISPR-Cas9 screening to find a new T-cell that has the capability to fight a wide range of cancers.

Dr. Alasdair Rankin, director of research and policy at the blood cancer charity Bloodwise, said: "While CAR-T therapy has been one of the most remarkable breakthroughs in blood cancer treatment in recent years-offering the last chance of a cure in many cases-its use has been limited to a small number of cancer types, it is very expensive and not everyone will respond".

"The new findings are at a very early stage, but they're an exciting step in the right direction, and brings us one step closer to "off-the-shelf" cell-based immunotherapy", says Klampatsa. But the team said they have "enormous potential".

T-cells are a type of lymphocyte (white blood cell) that develop in the thymus gland (hence the name).

Chemotherapy, which is still the standard treatment for most forms of cancers, treats the disease by attacking proteins called enzymes that fuel cell division and allow tumors to grow and spread. Unlike regular TCRs, which scan a surface molecule on cells called human leukocyte antigen (HLA), the TCRs of the new cells target a different cell surface protein called MR1.

However, the study describes a unique TCR that can recognize many types of cancer via a single HLA-like molecule called MR1. These new T-cells and their special receptors can home in on and kill lung, skin, leukemia, colon, breast, prostate, bone, kidney, cervical, and ovarian cancers.

A germ of all trades, if you will.

However, if this test is successful, then I would hope this new treatment could be in use in patients in a few years' time, " stated Andrew Sewell, Professor at Cardiff University's School of Medicine, and the lead author of the study. MR1 is found on a wide range of cancer cells, so targeting this protein could treat many types of cancer.

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Being a natural defence against infection for the human body, the immune system is also known to attack cancerous cells.

Tests upon mice with leukaemia - in which the animals were injected with the MR1 cells - revealed evidence of cancer regression, and led to the mice living longer than controls.

During their study, the scientists came across new T-cells in the blood of people.

The researchers said it offers "exciting opportunities for pan-cancer, pan-population" immunotherapies not previously thought possible.

"The development of a "one size fits all" type of immunotherapy, which could target different types of cancer cell and does not need to be manufactured for each individual patient, is an exciting prospect". Researchers suspect it may involve changes in cellular metabolism.

"There are plenty of hurdles to overcome".

Researchers have screened thousands of existing drug molecules against cancer cell lines to discover nearly 50 compounds that combat the condition. They were also able to demonstrate that T-cells of melanoma patients modified to express this new TCR could destroy not only the patient's own cancer cells but also other patients' cancer cells in the laboratory, regardless of the patient's HLA type.

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