Welsh researchers in cancer-killing cell discovery

Cardiff University researchers' T-cell discovery could revolutionise immunotherapy

Researchers at Cardiff University have discovered a new type of killer T-cell that offers hope of a “one-size-fits-all” cancer therapy.

T-cell therapies for cancer - where immune cells are removed, modified and returned to the patient’s blood to seek and destroy cancer cells - are the latest development in cancer treatments.

Whereas the most widely-used therapy targets only a few types of cancers.... Cardiff researchers have now discovered T-cells which recognise and kill most human cancer types, while ignoring healthy cells.

Researchers believed this will lead to immunotherapies not previously thought possible.

The T-cells in the study were shown in the lab, to kill lung, skin, blood, colon, breast, bone, prostate, ovarian, kidney and cervical cancer cells, while ignoring healthy cells.

Professor Andrew Sewell, lead author on the study and an expert in T-cells from Cardiff University’s School of Medicine, said it was “highly unusual” to find a TCR with such broad cancer specificity and this raised the prospect of "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.

"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.

"Previously nobody believed this could be possible."

The Cardiff group hope to trial this new approach in patients towards the end of this year following further safety testing.

Professor Awen Gallimore, of the University’s division of infection and immunity and cancer immunology lead for the Wales Cancer Research Centre, said:

"If this transformative new finding holds up, it will lay the foundation for a ‘universal’ T-cell medicine, mitigating against the tremendous costs associated with the identification, generation and manufacture of personalised T-cells. 

"This is truly exciting and potentially a great step forward for the accessibility of cancer immunotherapy."

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