At a glance:
- Research pinpoints the source of immune cell exhaustion that may interfere with the efficacy of CAR-T treatments for cancer.
- The study reveals that specific groups of proteins regulate immune cells’ ability to sustain key functions.
- Discovery opens the door to new therapeutic approaches that prevent T cell therapies from losing potency over time.
Custom-made to attack cancer cells, CAR T-cell therapies have opened a new era in the treatment of cancer, particularly blood cancers. The approach involves extracting a patient’s own T cells and modifying them in the lab to make them better at spotting and killing tumors.
Yet, all too often, these optimized CAR-T cells display a frustrating trait inherited from the original immune cells: a drastic loss of cancer-fighting fervor known as “T-cell exhaustion,” which can also affect how immune cells respond to other problems such as viral infections.
This vexing lapse into listlessness has diminished the effectiveness of CAR T-cell therapies in some patients and prompted scientists to find its source.
Now, Harvard Medical School researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and colleagues at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine have done just that.