New T-Cell Discovery May Lead to Universal Cancer Therapy

This discovery that can defeat multiple cancer cells comes just in time for World Cancer Day.



Illustration of T-cells attacking a cancer cell ( /

A new medical discovery may have found a one-size-fits-all approach to cancer therapy. Researchers at Cardiff University in Wales, UK detected a new type of T-cell (TCR) – the cells that are part of the body's immune response – that can also fight cancerous cells while ignoring healthy cells according to a press release from the university.

The study that was published in the January issue of Nature Immunology describes this unique TCR and its ability to recognize different types of cancers. Lab testing showed that these T-cells could kill lung, breast, kidney, prostate, colon, skin, ovarian, and cervical cancer cells.

The research team tested the therapeutic potential of the new cells on mice with human cancers and a human immune system and found that the TCR could destroy cancer cells without damaging non-cancerous cells as well as patient's cancer cells in a laboratory setting.

Professor Andrew Sewell, lead author of the study, and a T-cell expert from Cardiff's School of Medicine said that finding a TCR that had such a broad cancer specify was highly unusual and that this raised the possibility of a universal cancer therapy.

“We hope this new TCR may provide us with a different route to target and destroy a wide range of cancers in all individuals,” he said in the  press release.

“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."

Now, more research is being done to try to figure out how this new TCR can distinguish between healthy cells and cancerous ones. According to the press release, the researchers believe that it could work by sensing changes in the cellular metabolism. So far, this new T-cell has only been tested on animals.

The research group hopes to trial this new approach in humans by the end of 2020. However, Sewel said, “There are plenty of hurdles to overcome however if this testing is successful, then I would hope this new treatment could be in use in patients in a few years’ time.”

Professor Awen Gallimore, of the University’s division of infection and immunity and cancer immunology lead for the Wales Cancer Research Centre said that if the research holds up in human trials, it will lay the foundation for universal T-cell medicine.

“This is truly exciting and potentially a great step forward for the accessibility of cancer immunotherapy, ” Gallimore said.

This major breakthrough that was never thought to be possible, even with all the other advancements in cancer treatments, may actually hold the key to a cancer cure. Having this come so close to World Cancer Day makes it even more exciting because this is something that the world has been waiting for.

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