- Small experimental trials using autologous T-cell cancer therapies have demonstrated "extraordinary" response rates, cancer researchers presenting at the annual meeting for the American Association for the Advancement of Science said.
- The researchers gave updates on several small trials which used modified T-cells to target and destroy cancers. In a 35-person study involving patients with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, 94% went into remission. Over 50% of patients with lymphoma experienced remission in another study.
- However, T-cell therapies are used as a last line of defense and can lead to dangerous side-effects. The therapies have also been more effective against blood cancers than solid tumors, which present other challenges.
Researcher Chiara Bonini, an Italian haematologist, was particularly hopeful of the potential presented by memory T-cells, according to the Guardian. Memory T-cells can endure in the human body and could potentially protect against future cancer growth. Once modified with antigen receptors and reintroduced into the body, these T-cells could "remember" certain cancers and re-target them later on.
Despite the challenges of side-effects, the researchers were highly optimistic that T-cell therapies could be a new mainstay in the treatment of cancer. "This is unprecedented in medicine, to be honest, to get response rates in this range in these very advanced patients," said researcher Stanley Riddell as reported by the Guardian.
A number of biotechs are currently investigating the potential of T-cell therapies, including Juno and Kite. However, autologous therapy presents commercial challenges as it uses the T-cells of the individual patient for treatment. This raises the cost of treatment and limits uptake.