New Research May Alter Immune Cells in CAR-T Therapy Faster
CAR-T cell therapy research has come a long way in recent years. However, one problem continues to stand in the way of using this treatment for more people: how to shorten the period necessary to process the T-cells. This normally takes between 9 and 14 days. Researchers at Penn Medicine may have an answer to alternating immune cells quicker.
What is CAR-T Therapy?
The National Cancer Institute defines CAR-T therapy as a treatment that modifies a patient’s T cells in a lab so that they can target cancer. The immune system has a process for battling invasive illnesses, but it fails with cancer.
CAR-T-cell therapy manipulates a sample of a patient’s T cells to develop specific structures on their surface known as chimeric antigen receptors (CARs). When these CAR-T cells are reinfused into the patient, the new receptors allow them to bind to a specific antigen on the tumor cells and destroy them.
Care teams infuse these modified cells back into the patient’s body, where they can pinpoint cancer cells and eliminate them. Penn Medicine researchers have a novel method for modifying patients’ immune cells for reinfusion back into the body to detect and kill cancer – one that shortens the process for faster results.
The Penn Medicine Research
Researchers at Penn Medicine are pioneers in the field of CAR-T cell therapy. However, the time lag has always been a significant factor in its use.
Traditional manufacturing methods stimulate or activate T cells in a way that causes them to reproduce and multiply. The lentiviral vector that delivers the CAR gene to T cells is critical to the Penn researchers’ manufacturing technique.
Lentiviral vectors acquired from the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) may deliver genes such as the CAR-T cells without the requirement for this first “activation” phase, but their effectiveness is low. The Penn researchers devised a method to bypass this requirement for T cell activation and transfer genes directly to non-activated T cells newly extracted from the blood using engineering techniques.
To develop these new techniques, researchers looked at how HIV naturally infects T cells. The approach offers the added benefit of speeding up the whole production process while still preserving T cell potency.
The Benefits of a Faster CAR-T Process
By eliminating the extended time frame involved in CAR-T cell therapy, these researchers are opening up the possibility of using the treatment on patients that might not otherwise qualify because of the fast pace of cancer growth. In addition, this finding is a catalyst for an additional clinical investigation into how tailored CAR-T cells work in patients with particular tumors using this abbreviated strategy.
These findings point to the possibility of drastically reducing the time, materials, and labor necessary to manufacture CAR-T cells, which might be especially advantageous in patients with fast-advancing illnesses and resource-limited healthcare settings. Because the medication must be created for each unique patient, designing T cells is costly and time-consuming. The team expects that shortening the production time will reduce the cost of the therapy and make it more accessible to more people.