Infusing Engineered T Cells Kills Pancreatic Cancer

Experimental treatment shows promise attacking tumor cells.

Researchers developed a new treatment for pancreatic cancer by using engineered infused T cells in a study presented at the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting.

Since pancreatic tumor cells do not produce many unique proteins that allow for tumor-specific T cells, researchers had to look for proteins expressed in large quantities within the tumor and minimally expressed elsewhere.

Investigators then engineered the T cells to attack these overexpressed proteins.

However, a potential problem researchers faced was that the same targeted mesothelial protein is also found in the linings of the heart and lungs.

Fortunately, while performing tests on mice with pancreatic tumors and immune system responses that are nearly identical to those found in humans, the engineered T cells were found to only stay briefly in the linings — causing no harm – and then moving to attack the tumor cells.

The cells were able to be killed over a 10-day window and so did the subsequent infusions.

Additional research involved developing an enzyme that can help defeat the high interstitial pressures in the tumor, and could potentially lead to greater penetration and effectiveness of T cells and other types of agents.

Researchers hope to have a human version of the T cell in clinical trials by the end of the year.