Powerful killer T-cell discovery could enable ‘one-size-fits-all’ cancer therapy

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Image: Cardiff University

Researchers have discovered a new type of killer T-cell that, after testing in a mouse model, could help to forge a path towards “one-size-fits-all” cancer therapy.

T-cell therapies for cancer – where immune cells are removed, modified and returned to the patient’s blood to seek and destroy cancer cells – are the latest paradigm in cancer treatments.

The most widely used therapy, known as CAR-T, is personalized to each patient but targets only a few types of cancers and has not been successful for solid tumors, which make up the vast majority of cancers.

Researchers have now discovered T-cells equipped with a new type of T-cell receptor (TCR) which recognizes and kills most human cancer types, while ignoring healthy cells.

Related article:  A right to know? Should children be told when a parent's genetic test reveals hereditary risks?

This TCR recognizes a molecule present on the surface of a wide range of cancer cells as well as in many of the body’s normal cells but, remarkably, is able to distinguish between healthy cells and cancerous ones, killing only the latter.

The researchers said this meant it offered “exciting opportunities for pan-cancer, pan-population” immunotherapies not previously thought possible.

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