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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

New CAR T-cell therapy reveals potential in solid tumours

Health Industry Hub | April 6, 2023 |

Pharma News: CAR T-cell therapy is an innovative form of immunotherapy that uses the body’s immune system to target and destroy infected cells. These T-cells are collected, re-engineered with the CAR receptor, and then re-infused as a once-off procedure to fight the cancer cells.

Currently, three CAR-T cell therapies are approved in Australia; Novartis’ Kymriah (tisagenlecleucel) – approved in December 2018, Gilead’s Tecartus (brexucabtagene autoleucel) – approved in July 2021 and Gilead’s Yescarta (axicabtagene ciloleucel) – approved in February 2021.

This latest Peter Mac-led study, published in Science Translational Medicine this week, uses younger, stem-like T-cells rather than conventional T-cells. In an exciting development, these cells, called T stem-like CAR T-cells, have shown an increased ability to reproduce when carrying the CAR receptor.

Peter Mac Human Immunology Translational Lab Head, Professor Paul Neeson, said this study is a major step towards CAR T-cell therapy being effective in solid cancers.

“While CAR T-cell therapy has been approved in some types of blood cancers like leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma, the success of CAR T-cells in solid cancers is limited. This is due to factors including poor CAR T-cell expansion, persistence and exhaustion when fighting the tumour,” he said.

“Importantly, these T stem-like CAR T-cells have improved anti-tumour function in the culture dish and in four pre-clinical models. In fact, they completely eradicated pre-existing solid tumours when combined with the immune checkpoint drug anti-PD1. Furthermore, they persist long-term, indicating these cells have all the hallmark traits of CAR T-cells which have had outstanding success in blood cancers.”

The study first created a production protocol that generates fully functional stem-like CAR T-cells in an abbreviated six-day period instead of the standard 14 days, opening the door for a more cost-effective and scalable process in the future.

These significant results support the implementation of production strategies to generate stem-like CAR T-cells for clinical use.

“We would aim to use these cells in two paediatric leukaemias that are resistant to treatment. We believe our protocol will harmonise the CAR T-cell product to one that has consistent anti-tumour function and the important ability to persist,” Prof Neeson said.

“Once we show these cells are safe, we will turn our attention to developing this treatment for paediatric solid cancers including osteosarcoma and neuroblastoma.”

This research was conducted in collaboration with the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Zero Childhood Cancer, Children’s Cancer Institute Australia and a broad range of oncologists at Peter Mac.

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