ADELAIDE scientists are leading the charge to cure all kinds of cancer, not just blood cancer, using the body’s own immune system.
They have armed the body’s killer T-cells with the ability to seek and destroy solid tumours of different cell types.
Chief Scientist for South Australia Dr Leanna Read says immunotherapy is a “huge hot area of medicine with the potential to cure cancer”.
And she is in the hot seat, as chair of both the company celebrating the latest breakthrough, Carina Biotech, and its parent research organisation, the Cooperative Research Centre for Cell Therapy Manufacturing.
“You can take out a patient’s killer-T cells and reverse engineer them to recognise a cell surface marker,” Dr Read said.
“The Holy Grail is to find something on cancer cells of all kinds, but not other cells and target that.”
Taking T-cells — which circulate in our blood to eradicate infection — out of the body and training them to find cancer has worked for blood cancers in US clinical trials, Dr Read said, where more than 90 per cent of leukaemia patients have gone into remission.
“These are kids with cancer and they’re cured,” she said.
In Adelaide, scientists set their sights on a cell surface protein known to exist across a range of cancer cell types.
They gave killer T-cells the ability to recognise the protein, using a receptor on their cell surface. When the receptor locks on, the kill is initiated.
Carina Biotech chief executive Dr Justin Coombs said laboratory results for their type of Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cells or CAR T-cells “were really quite stunning”.
“We can make CAR T-cells attack a whole range of different cancers,” he said.
“Our CAR T-cells can attack breast cancer, ovarian cancer, melanoma and brain cancer, and they’re the ones we have tested so far. We have reason to believe our CAR T-cells can attack a very broad range of cancers.”
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