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Research Focus

Best-In-Class T-Cells

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Opportunity

Scientists have discovered how to engineer the body’s own T-cells to better recognize and destroy tumor cells, with promising early results.

CHARGE

To advance immune cell therapy by developing the next generation of engineered T-cells that provide safer, longer-lasting therapeutic results.

T-cells have evolved over millennia to fight disease within the body as part of the human immune system. Now, scientists have developed ingenious ways to engineer T-cells to specifically target cancer cells, with dramatic initial results.

Two of the most major advances in this field, and cancer immunotherapy overall, are the development of chimeric antigen receptor therapy, or CAR-T therapy, and the creation of T-cells engineered with special T-cell receptors, known as TCRs. Both CAR-T and TCR display a significant amount of promise as weapons in the battle against cancer.

While these technologies are in the early stages, the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy believes they will continue to revolutionize the field of oncology. The Parker Institute supports research that leverages these approaches with the goal of turning cancer into a curable disease.

Progress

The Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy scientists have embarked on a landmark clinical trial to test the next wave of cancer-fighting T-cells, engineered using the groundbreaking CRISPR gene-editing technology. This research, led by the University of Pennsylvania, is the first in the United States to test CRISPR-modified cells in humans.

In this study, T-cells will be engineered to be more potent, long-lasting and specific to cancer cells expressing the NY-ESO-1 gene, which is only expressed on tumors. The treatment is also expected to be tested on patients at the University of California, San Francisco, and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

An NIH committee greenlighted the study in June 2016. The first patients in this watershed study are expected to receive infusions of the treatment in 2017.

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