Lead author of the study and Cardiff expert Professor Andrew Sewell called the discovery “highly unusual” and indicated that it could be developed into a universal, broad-based therapy.
Marking a breakthrough in cancer treatment, a new type of immune cell that kills most cancers was discovered by researchers at Cardiff University’s School of Medicine. The team has published their findings in the journal - Nature Immunology.
The accidental discovery was made when the scientists were analysing blood samples for immune cells that could fight bacteria. They instead discovered the T-cell, a never-before-seen receptor that only latches on to cancerous cells, ignoring healthy ones.
The lead author of the study and Cardiff expert, Professor Andrew Sewell, called the discovery “highly unusual” and indicated that it could be developed into a universal, broad-based therapy. “This was a serendipitous finding, nobody knew this cell existed,” Sewell told The Telegraph.
The discovery is special as the cell was found to work on most human cancers, such as including lung, skin, blood, colon, breast, bone, prostate, ovarian, kidney and cervical cancer – something no present therapies (CAR-T and TCR-T) can claim, the paper reported.
Also, Sewell did not dismiss the idea that lots of people could have the cancer-immune cells or that most people have the cell, but the “receptor has not activated yet”.
How does it work?
The T-cell attaches to the MR1 molecule on cancer cells. This molecule does not vary in humans, thus allowing the treatment to work across cancer types. Since the treatment can be shared between people, the possibility of banks for the immune cells could be created in the future.
Testing on mice, so far, have yielded encouraging results, and Sewell added that the ‘right people’ are interested in developing the new therapy, which means progress would be “quite fast”. They expect human trials on terminally ill patients as early as November 2020, once it passes laboratory safety testing.
Researchers Lucia Mori and Gennaro De Libero, from the University of Basel in Switzerland, told the BBC that the research had "great potential" but was at too early a stage to say it would work in all cancers.While a professor of immunology at the University of Manchester Daniel Davis, while acknowledging it as an “exciting discovery for advancing basic knowledge about the immune system and for future new medicines,” added that the research was “not close to actual medicines for patients.”
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