The Baylor College of Medicine reported this week that researchers have developed off-the-shelf therapies using T cells to fight cancers. Off-the-shelf therapy is manufactured from healthy donors and is targeted at specific markers in a tumor.
Our body’s T cells recognize specific molecules as threats. Once alerted to their presence in your body, the T cells are set in motion to kill the invading molecules. It takes three to tango to make this happen. The healthy donor of T cells donates them to the Baylor College of Medicine’s Center for Cell and Gene Therapy.
The T cells are genetically modified to meet the specific attributes of cancer in a patient. Once the alterations have been made, the T cells are injected into the cancer patient. Clinical trials are showing incredibly good results.
One downside to this process is time. It takes time to modify the T cells to react to specific tumor molecules – sometimes weeks. The cancer patient may get worse with his or her immune system not as potent as it would have been weeks before.
The process is being expanded to make the T cells not only off-the-shelf but also ready-to-use. This will streamline the process and cut down on time. The T cells are stored cryogenically in liquid nitrogen until needed by a patient.
View it as a store with prepared T cells already targeted for specific biomarkers associated with certain cancers. If a patient has a match for those biomarkers, the T cells are thawed and ready-to-use.
Researchers point out one downside to this process. If the cancer patient’s immune system recognizes the ‘new’ T cells as foreign enemies, which happens with organ transplants, they may be rejected.
There are a couple of workarounds that can facilitate making the pre-manufactured T cells compatible with those patients that might reject them. Further research and trials are ongoing. This process is being viewed to treat other diseases besides cancer.
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