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Groundbreaking Study of Cancer-Killing Immunotherapy Could Reduce Side Effects and Improve Performance

By August 27, 2018No Comments

The emerging form of cancer treatment called CAR T immunotherapy is wiping out the disease in some terminal patients — but despite early successes, the treatments still have major drawbacks. Many patients who take CAR T treatment also battle dangerous side effects, which can be deadly. For some patients, the treatments simply don’t work at all.

But a new understanding of how CAR T immunotherapy works, gleaned from a study by researchers at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, points to redesigns that might eliminate those problems.

The researchers initially wanted to understand why some CAR T treatments seemed to have different traits than others — for example, some kinds of treatments stay in a patient’s body longer.

To figure out what was causing the difference, researchers zeroed in on the relationship between the two parts of a CAR T treatment that make it work: A patient’s T-cells, immune cells that fight disease, and a man-made chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) that is spliced into those cells to make them find and destroy cancer. Those two components communicate through a process called signaling.

“What we’ve learned from this study is how these receptors are actually signaling,” said Dr. Stan Riddell, the leader of Fred Hutch’s immunotherapy research center, during a news conference this week. This area is not well understood, and the researchers’ results revealed “some new insights, surprising insights, and I think some real direction for future work,” Riddell said.