Researchers at the University of New South Wales in Sydney and the California Institute of Biomedicine (CALIBR) have demonstrated that “specially cultured killer cells” can be used to treat pancreatic cancer. In the study, the team obtained pancreatic cancer cells from patients with advanced pancreatic cancer and transplanted them into mice. Then modify the patient’s immune cells to specifically recognize and eliminate cancer cells, which is why they are also called specially cultured killer cells or CAR-T cells. After these CAR-T cells were injected into mice, they were able to find all cancer cells in the body, adhere to them through surface markers, and then destroy the cancer cells. The therapeutic effect is very significant, and the cancer cells in the mice disappear completely, including cancer cells that have spread to the liver and lungs. This landmark study was recently published in the top academic journal Gut.
The researchers not only demonstrated the effectiveness of the new CAR-T immunotherapy for pancreatic cancer. At the same time, a new technology was introduced to help them fully control the activity of CAR-T cells. Using so-called “switchable CAR-T cells,” the team used this new concept in pancreatic cancer for the first time and divided cancer target recognition and subsequent cancer cell killing into two separate processes. Dr. Alexandra Aicher, co-corresponding author of the University of New South Wales School of Medicine, said that CAR-T cell therapy is very powerful but requires careful manipulation.
The team now hopes to bring this promising therapy to the clinic and is seeking funding to make progress. Professor Chris Heeschen, lead author of the University of New South Wales School of Medicine, said that the next step is to combine CAR-T cells with treatment to make CAR-T cells reach cancer cells more easily.