Saturday, 21 July, 2018

Engineered Cancer Cells Can Fight Cancer, Brigham And Women's Researchers Find

Blue purple pink 3d rendering of brain Engineered cancer cells may be able to home in on tumors in hard-to-reach places like the brain
Samantha Long | 13 July, 2018, 19:22

Ever since it was discovered 12 years ago that cancer cells return to the tumor after metastasizing in far parts of the body, many ideas of how to engineer these cells to work as assassins have surfaced.

Using CRISPR gene editing in their mouse study, researchers introduced S-TRAIL, a protein that kills various types of cancer cells and is not toxic to healthy cells, into the cancer cells from the mice and then transferred them back into the body.

The team of researchers reports promising results in preclinical models across multiple types of cancer cells, and published their finidngs in Science Translation Medicine.

If this technique sounds generally familiar, it's because a pair of therapies from drug giants Novartis and Gilead called Kymriah and Yescarta, part of a new class known as CAR-T, were approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) past year.

Enjoying this story? Subscribe to FierceBiotech! The other used pre-engineered cells that matched the patient's own genes. The second were patient-specific tumor cells that were edited with CRISPR. The process utilizes electrical fields instead of viruses to insert DNA to make the cells permeable, speeding up the process significantly.

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To test both approaches, the team used mouse models of primary and recurrent brain cancer and breast cancer that has spread to the brain. The treatments also extended the lives of the animals. Engineered cells were equipped with a "kill switch" that could be activated after treatment - PET imaging showed that this kill switch worked to eliminate the cells.

Researchers at the Francis Crick Institute and Imperial College London have developed a way to measure and visualize drug-target engagement of individual cells within in a tumor, using a miniature fluorescent microscope. Scientists from Boston took advantage of cancer cells' typical behavior and used CRISPR technology in hopes of destroying the main tumor with its own cells. "We think this has many implications and could be applicable across all cancer cell types". CAR-T approaches have been embraced due to their effectiveness in blood cancers, but they've proven hard to apply to other tumor types, and they can cause unsafe immune reactions.

"Our study demonstrates the therapeutic potential of using engineered tumor cells and their self-homing properties for developing receptor-targeted therapeutics for various cancers", Shah said, according to EurekAlert.

But that T cell re-engineering process is stymied by the need to use "viral vectors"-an expensive and expansive biological constraint that, simply put, slows down the ability to insert beneficial DNA into an immune cell and the amount of genomic data that can be repurposed for cancer-killing purposes". "These cells would result in killing of residual, invasive, and metastatic tumor deposits with the ultimate goal of improving outcomes".

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