Engineered Cancer Cells Can Fight Cancer, Brigham And Women's Researchers Find

T cells engineered using nonviral CRISPR technology to express green fluorescent protein

Ever since it was discovered 12 years ago that cancer cells return to the tumor after metastasizing in far parts of the body, many ideas of how to engineer these cells to work as assassins have surfaced. With increasing life expectancy, the incidence of cancer is rising and it has been estimated that by 2030 over 20 million people will be diagnosed with cancer annually.

The development of novel prevention and treatment strategies has dramatically improved cancer survival rates. It's the metastases that cause near 90 percent of cancer deaths, not the original tumor. The results can be staggering for certain hard-to-treat blood cancer patients. These cells could then be transferred back into the patient. Tumour cells have a remarkable homing ability which enables them to travel from a distant location to a tumour site, whereby facilitating the congregation of tumour cells at the new site.

Scientists at the University of California San Francisco developed a method where they use a "cut and paste" system to rewrite sequences in immune cells, or T cells. Researchers have genetically engineered tumour cells to include a cytotoxic mechanism.

Cell-based therapies hold tremendous promise for delivering therapeutic agents to tumours and may provide treatment options where standard therapy has failed.

A study led by researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital finds that CRISPR-enhanced, reverse-engineered cancer cells can be used to kill that cancer from within. Harnessing this power could overcome drug delivery challenges, helping get therapeutics to tumor sites that may otherwise be hard to reach. The experimental technique being tested by UCLA and UCSF scientists (backed by the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, established by tech entrepreneur and philanthropist Sean Parker) could theoretically bypass those constraints and create a cheaper, faster, and more efficient process for manufacturing cancer hunters out of a patient's own biology by modifying certain cells' building blocks. "We think this has many implications and could be applicable across all cancer cell types".

To test both approaches, the team used mouse models of primary and recurrent brain cancer and breast cancer that has spread to the brain. The specially engineered tumor cells were made with a "kill switch' that would kill them after they presumably killed the tumor". Primary, recurrent and metastatic tumours in the mice were successfully destroyed.

Team of researchers reports promising results in preclinical models.

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