Want to make better T-cell therapies? First, figure out how they work

These man-made cancer-fighting molecules are infinitely variable, like a set of Legos, each one constructed to allow a patient’s immune cells to kill cancer cells. But, unlike selecting a red versus a blue block while building a colorful plastic tower, the consequences of your design choices when building what’s known as a CAR could have life-or-death consequences.

In the first comprehensive study of its kind, scientists have mapped out how a critical design choice affects how CARs, or chimeric antigen receptors, signal immune attack and how well cells carrying those CARs can eradicate cancer in mice. Their findings will inform the next generations of this form of cancer immunotherapy, called CAR T-cell therapy, the researchers say.

The study was published Tuesday in the journal Science Signaling by a cross-disciplinary research team at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and was supported by government and philanthropic funding.

“The breakthrough in CAR T cells is really how well they work in patients. But we shouldn’t rest on those successes,” said Dr. Stanley Riddell, the senior scientist on the project. “There are many patients who still don’t respond to CAR T cells, and we need to understand whether there are things we can do to overcome the barriers that prevent more patients from responding. I think this work gives us a direction to do that.”

Read more: https://www.fredhutch.org/en/news/center-news/2018/08/car-t-cell-design.html