Research project aims to make CAR-T-cell therapy safer and more effective

June 21, 2021
CAR-T cells attach cancer
In order to kill cancer cells, genetically modified CAR-T-cells are programmed to identify specific targets on the diseased cells. Adobe Stock

A new project led by researchers at MUSC Hollings Cancer Center could significantly decrease the side effects associated with CAR-T-cell therapy and make the treatment available to more patients who could benefit. Chimeric antigen receptor T cells (CAR-T cells) are T cells that have been genetically engineered to produce an artificial T-cell receptor for use in immunotherapy.

Led by Shikhar Mehrotra, Ph.D., co-leader of Hollings’ Cancer Immunology Program, and Hollings hematologist and oncologist Brian Hess, M.D., the project involves manufacturing a “purified” version of the CAR-T-cells that are currently used to treat patients with certain types of lymphoma and leukemia to reduce the side effects associated with treatment and potentially make the treatment more effective. The therapy will be given to patients as part of a clinical trial, including lymphoma and leukemia patients who don’t currently have approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to receive CAR-T cell therapy. The therapy works by collecting a patient’s T-cells, genetically modifying these cells to identify specific targets (CD19) on cancer cells and then infusing them back into patients to fight their disease.

Car-T-cell therapy process

Mehrotra, who also is the co-scientific director of MUSC’s FACT-accredited Center for Cellular Therapy, said the MUSC project for developing CD19 CAR-T was initiated through a collaboration with Michael Nishimura, Ph.D., at Loyola, who worked with the researchers to generate CD19 CAR-T-cells at MUSC’s clean-cell facility.

“Just like we need physicians to see patients and administer CAR-T-cell therapy, we need researchers to be able to manufacture the best possible CAR-T- cell product. They are a vital partner in making this clinical trial available to patients,” said Hess. “They’re also the team with whom we will collaborate to perform the science related to this study to advance the field and inform future studies.”

Read the full story in the Hollings Cancer Center News Center  in the related news article below: