A new study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation has found that Israel’s groundbreaking CAR T-cell therapy, which has been proven effective at treating leukemia (blood cancer), could be also effective at killing solid tumors.
Lead study author Dr. Yaron Carmi from Tel Aviv University told The Jerusalem Post that the most common treatment for solid tumors – chemotherapy – destroys cancer cells, as well as healthy cells, giving rise to adverse effects such as nausea, hair loss, pain, anemia, muscle or nerve pain, mood changes, and even heart and kidney ailments.
He said, “Immunotherapy, on the other hand, is a type of biological therapy that uses the body’s own immune system to seek out and destroy cancer cells.”
Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T-cell treatment is a type of immunotherapy that utilizes modified T cells in order to kill cancer cells, according to the Tel Aviv University researchers.
T cells are a type of white blood cells (WBCs) called lymphocytes that play a pivotal role in the immune response. After collecting these cells from the patients, they are engineered to produce CARs on the cell surface. The CAR allows the cells to adhere to an antigen on the tumors to kill them.
Modified T cells have been found effective at successfully treating a type of blood cancer called leukemia. However, the efforts to use them for treating solid tumors were not promising.
Dr. Carmi said, “We don’t know why. There is no clear answer why it has not worked with solid tumors, which is the majority of tumors.”
“Our lab discovered a distinct subset of helper T cells, also known as CD4+ T cells, that express the high-affinity receptor for IgG [an antibody] and efficiently kill tumor cells coated with these antibodies,” explained Dr. Carmi.
“This method uses CAR T-cell therapy and combines it with antibody specificity. Based on this discovery, we were able to engineer novel T cells with enhanced tumor-killing activity and higher specificity, compared with other T cell-based therapies for cancer,” he added.
He described the study as a huge achievement. He is in the United States to apply for the funds that need to conduct the study on humans. He said if the study gets enough funds, the treatment would be available within a couple of years after the trails.
Dr. Carmi explained, “Because there is an awareness of the suffering that cancer patients endure, the FDA is more open to introducing new treatments.”
“We are now able to edit the genome of people and cure horrible diseases, like people born without any immune system – and it is coming to cancer treatment,” he added. “Maybe our body cannot recognize and fight cancer properly, but we can alter or change it in a way that would enhance its capabilities to kill cancer,” he continued. “It may be the beginning, but it is a very exciting time for medicine.” In April, a study was presented at the American Association for Cancer Research conference in Atlanta, which showed promising results of CAR-T therapy in treating solid tumors.