A joint research team is developing a new type of chimeric antigen receptor T cell (CAR-T) therapy that has no side effects, according to the National Cancer Center Friday.
The research team from the National Cancer Center and Seoul-based clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company Eutilex aims to develop and commercialize a new CAR-T treatment based on its research results.
CAR-T takes T-cells from each patient, re-engineers them, and then infuses it back into the patient to attack cancer. According to the National Cancer Center, however, CARs (chimeric antigen receptors) often target antigens that are not only expressed on malignant cells but also on other healthy T cells, resulting in the killing of neighboring T cells.
|Professor Han Chung-yong|
The joint research, led by Professor Han Chung-yong from the National Cancer Center, aimed to develop a human leukocyte antigen-DR (HLA-DR)-targeted CAR-T therapy, as opposed to the CD19-targeting CAR-T treatments on the market.
"Existing CAR-T therapeutic agents have a functional difference from the normal T cells in the body. The new CAR-T therapeutic agent developed in this study is a method of applying general T cell characteristics to alleviate the side effect of existing therapeutic agents,” Professor Han said.
The study findings showed that using HLA-DR-targeted CAR-T cells reduced the killing of neighboring T cells and induced sustained CAR downregulation, leading to desensitization. Desensitized CAR-T cells selectively killed Epstein-Barr virus-transformed B cells with enhanced HLA-DR expression while leaving normal B cells intact, the study further found.
The study was published recently in Nature Communications.
Pharmaceutical giants made historic progress in CAR-T therapies last year. In August, Novartis won a landmark approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for its CAR-T treatment Kymriah (tisagenlecleucel), as the first-ever cell therapy for a type of leukemia.
Its rival, Gilead Sciences, which acquired Kite Pharma at $11.9 billion, is also making strides in the CAR-T race. It also struck a $3 billion deal with Sangamo Therapeutics Thursday to use Sangamo’s gene-editing tech.
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