Using our immune system to fight cancer

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Breakthrough in cancer research
By Jerry Brownstein
Researchers at Cardiff University (UK) have discovered a new type of killer immune cell (T-cell) that has the potential to be an effective therapy against numerous types of cancer. T-cell therapies are a growing field in cancer treatment. The way it works is that immune cells are removed to be modified, and then they are returned to the patient's blood to seek and destroy cancer cells. However, up to now this process could only target a limited number of cancers, and was not successful against solid tumours - which make up the majority of cancers. These newly discovered T-cells are equipped with a T-cell receptor (TCR), which recognises and kills most human cancer types while ignoring healthy cells.

According to professor Andrew Sewell who headed the study, “This raises the possibility of a 'one-size-fits-all' cancer treatment; a single type of T-cell capable of destroying many different types of cancers.” In the lab, T-cells equipped with the new TCR were shown to kill lung, skin, blood, colon, breast, bone, prostate, ovarian, kidney and cervical cancer cells, while ignoring healthy cells. “If this transformative new finding holds up, it will lay the foundation for a universal T-cell medicine, and a great step forward for cancer immunotherapy.”


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