• By Susan Buckles

Science Saturday: A new understanding of the inner workings of CAR-T cell therapy

September 11, 2021
a medical illustration of CAR-T cell therapy for cancer

Mayo Clinic researchers have biomanufactured chimeric antigen receptor-T cell therapy  (CAR-T cell therapy) in a new way to track the cells' cancer-fighting journey and predict toxic side effects. This Mayo Clinic breakthrough, published in Cancer Immunology Research, also could unravel the mystery of how to unleash CAR-T cell therapy to destroy solid tumors.

"This new technology allows us to image CAR-T cells after they are given to patients and study their fate," says Saad Kenderian, M.B., Ch.B., a Mayo Clinic hematologist and researcher, and lead author. "This allows us to investigate strategies that could improve CAR-T cell trafficking and penetration into the tumor cells, and thus can improve tumor killing."

The research

Mayo Clinic researchers engineered CAR-T cells to express a sodium iodide symporter protein that could be imaged by a positron emission tomography (PET) scan in preclinical models. Investigators monitored in real-time, tracking precisely how CAR-T cells multiplied and targeted cancer for destruction. This new imaging lays the foundation for strategies that could use CAR-T cell therapy to fight more types of disease.

"Until now, we have not had a clinically relevant imaging platform to monitor cell expansion and trafficking to tumor sites," says Dr. Kenderian. "We can show in mouse models that imaging by PET scans shows how CAR-T cells move, and when they increase in number and cause side effects. This new understanding may help us expand CAR-T cell therapy to more cancers so more patients can benefit."

A new type of regenerative immunotherapy

Immunotherapies unlock the body’s defense mechanisms to fight bacteria, viruses and diseases, including cancer. CAR-T cell therapy is a new type of regenerative immunotherapy that harnesses the body's defense system by genetically modifying cells, equipping them to go on search-and-destroy missions to kill cancer. These synthetic cells become a living drug that mobilizes through the body, continually tapping the immune system to attack disease.

Read the rest of the article on the Center for Regenerative Medicine blog.

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