Medical researchers working on solving complex problems of the immune system are coming to rely on a form of immunotherapy known as chimeric antigen receptor-T cell therapy, or “CAR-T therapy.” It’s used to treat forms of cancer that have been resistant to other approaches.
More than 100 companies from around the world are now exploring the use of CAR-T therapy.
About CAR-T Therapy
T cells are a form of immune system cells. Doctors take a sample of a cancer patient’s blood and remove its T cells. Then, they use a gene that controls a particular receptor that binds with a protein on the cancer cells and add it to the T cells. The name of the receptor is “chimeric antigen receptor,” which is where the name CAR-T therapy comes from.
A technician grows a supply of CAR-T cells in a laboratory environment, which are then infused into the patient. Once inside the patient’s body, the new CAR-T cells bind to cancer cells in the blood to kill them.
Examples of Organizations Researching CAR-T as an Alternative Therapy
As noted by a recent report from BioInformant, more than 100 companies have formed around developing CAR-T therapy since Dr. Zelig Eshhar at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel developed the first ever chimeric antigen receptor.
Here are some noteworthy examples:
* AbbieVie and Calibir, a nonprofit division of Scripps Research, have joined forces to develop a way to use CAR-T therapy for treating solid tumors. They are using a new proprietary “switchable” CAR-T cell, with antibody molecules used to activate the CAR-T cell antigens in a specific way.
* Allogene Therapeutics is working on a group of cell therapies according to rights it acquired from Pfizer. They are looking at UCARt19, which is an allogeneic therapy used for treating hematological malignancies. The first phase 1 testing is targeting ALL (“acute lymphoblastic leukemia.”)
* In Belgium, Celyad is doing clinical research to develop CAR-T NK cell-based immunotherapy to treat cancer. Its research is based on work done at Dartmouth College on the NKR-T platform by professor Charles Sentman. The “Therapeutic Immunotherapy Using NKR-2 T cells (THINK) trial is ongoing.
* Gilead Sciences bought Kite Pharma for $12 billion back in 2017, making it a well-capitalized CAR-T research organization. Gilead Sciences is the second business to receive approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a CAR-T cell therapy approach. Its Yescarta therapy is designed for treating adult cancer patients who have relapsed (or refractory) large B-cell lymphoma.
* Immune Cell, Inc. is researching and developing immunotherapy with CAR-T cell therapy, with its ICAR19 T cells to target and kill CD19+ tumor cells. Patients in a clinical study will get doses of ICAR10 T cells (autologous) so that researchers can test it for safety in this new method for wiping out cancer cells.
* Minerva Biotechnologies Corp is advancing work on CAR-T cell therapy that aims at MUC1 positive solid tumors. They anticipate launching a clinical trial with humans at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Washington State to treat patients who have breast cancer.
CAR-T Efforts Continue Apace, With Researchers Working at Start-ups as Well as Established Biotechnology Companies
With so many medical research and pharmaceutical organizations across the globe devoting time and resources to CAR-T therapy, the science will undoubtedly continue to advance.
And the sooner they can demonstrate improvements, the better. There are patients who are not doing well with conventional treatments whose doctors are clamoring for more precise methods to help them get rid of their cancer. It’s certainly an area in biotechnology that deserves closer attention.