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T-cell Therapy: What the Future Holds

The creation of T-cells engineered to fight cancer heralded a breakthrough in immunotherapy treatment.

However, several challenges remain before immune cells programmed to curb cancer can be safely and effectively used to treat a broader group of cancer patients.

In a new paper published Feb. 9 in the journal Cell, two scientists at the forefront of the field lay out their vision for how to overcome some of the most significant roadblocks to successfully making this type of immunotherapy more reliable, personalized and safe.

“In this review, we summarize the field of engineered therapeutic T-cells and where it is headed. We have focused on forecasting how the tools of synthetic biology could be used to design the best therapeutic cell programs for treating cancer,” according to paper.

The review was written by Carl June, MD, a center director at the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy and a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine and Abramson Cancer Center, and Wendell Lim, PhD, director of the Center for Systems & Synthetic Biology at the University of California, San Francisco.

As part of the discussion of what’s to come, the authors write about designing T-cells that can withstand and even thrive in the often toxic environment surrounding tumors, which typically renders immune cells ineffective. The researchers also describe several types of “off-switches” that can be built into engineered T-cells to keep them from overacting and causing side effects.