Though the study is in early stages, a new discovery may lead to a cancer cure for all types. The potential cure lies within our own immune systems.
A team of researchers at Cardiff University discovered T-cell receptors (TCRs) in the human immune system that were unknown until the study. One of the researchers, Professor Andrew Sewell, stated, “Current TCR-based therapies can only be used in a minority of patients with a minority of cancers. Cancer-targeting via MR1-restricted T-cells is an exciting new frontier – it raises the prospect of a ‘one-size-fits-all’ cancer treatment; a single type of T-cell that could be capable of destroying many different types of cancers across the population. Previously nobody believed this could be possible.”
New TCRs may lead to cancer cure for all types of cancers
The new TCR can recognize. at a chemical level, the MR1 molecule when present on a cancer cell. While the MR1 is also on the surface of every cell in the body, this newly discovered TCR targets and kills only cancerous cells.
There are other T-cell therapies currently, such as CAR-T, but they are extremely specific to the individual and to the type of cancer. These therapies, unlike what is shown in trials of the new TCR, are ineffective for any solid cancer, such as tumors. According to this study, published in Nature Immunology, researchers were able to kill cancer cells in lung, skin, blood, colon, breast, bone, prostate, ovarian, kidney, and cervical cancers – meanwhile not harming healthy cells.
How would the patient receive the TCRs?
- Blood would be taken from the patient
- Immune T-cells would be filtered out
- Scientists would use a harmless virus to put genes into T-cells which changes them to recognize and target cancer cells
- These enhanced cells would be duplicated in large quantities in the lab
- Finally, these cells are injected into the patient
At this point, the TCRs would do their work to search and destroy cancer cells.
When will treatments begin?
To date, tests were performed on mice containing human cancer with a human immune system. Tests on humans are expected by the end of 2020, but first must ensure that healthy cells are not compromised in the process.
According to Daniel Davis, a professor of immunology at the University of Manchester, “At the moment, this is very basic research and not close to actual medicines for patients. There is no question that it’s a very exciting discovery, both for advancing our basic knowledge about the immune system and for the possibility of future new medicines.”