The discovery of a new kind of immune cell receptor could pave the way for a new type of T-cell cancer therapy that can attack a diverse range of cancers in human patients without requiring tailored treatment.
Researchers at Cardiff University were analysing blood from a bank in Wales, looking for immune cells that could fight bacteria, when they found an entirely new type of T-cell.
That new immune cell carries a never-before-seen receptor which acts like a grappling hook, latching on to most human cancers, while ignoring healthy cells.
In laboratory studies, immune cells equipped with the new receptor were shown to kill lung, skin, blood, colon, breast, bone, prostate, ovarian, kidney and cervical cancer.
The researchers behind the discovery emphasise that testing is still at an early stage, having been conducted only in mice and in human cells in the lab, not yet in living patients. But the preliminary results are promising, and suggest we could be on the verge of a significant advancement in T-cell therapies.
“Our finding 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.” (Professor Andrew Sewell, lead author on the study)
T-cells are a type of white blood cell involved in the function of our immune system. When T-cells are activated by coming into contact with defective or foreign cells in the body, they attack them, helping us fight off infection and disease.
There’s a lot more to learn here before we can truly proclaim this is some kind of universal cancer treatment, but there certainly look to be some exciting discoveries on the horizon.
The findings are reported in Nature Immunology.