• Study tests 16 patients with CRISPR technology not only to remove genes, but also to insert new ones into immune cells

  • Although the clinical benefit in terms of patient response was limited, the technique represents a leap towards individualized treatments

A scientific team has succeeded in using the CRISPR gene editing technology to insert genes that allow immune cells focus your attack on cancer cells, leaving the normals potentially unscathed. This new approach that increases the immunotherapy efficacy has been tested in a phase I clinical trial with 16 patients with various types of cancercolon, breast and lung); This is an early proof of concept that demonstrates that the immune system of a patient can be rescheduled To recognize your own cancer.

The results were presented at the annual meeting of the Cancer Immunotherapy Society and are published in the ‘Nature’ magazine. The work is co-directed by the Spanish Antonio Ribas, researcher at the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of California (UCLA), and professor of medicine at the same.

What does this technology consist of?

CRISPR/Cas9 is a biological tool which enables Modify the genome; like a text editor, it is capable of manipulating the through a genome mechanism that «cuts and pastes» DNA sequences. The CRISPR technique has previously been used in humans to delete specific genes and allow the immune system to become more active against cancer.

In this new work, the researchers report the possibility of using CRISPR not only to knock out specific genes, but also to insert new ones into immune cells, efficiently redirecting these to recognize switches in the patient’s own cancer cells.

How does it work?

According to a UCLA news release, when reinfused into patients, these immune cells switched with CRISPR preferentially targets cancer and developed into the immune cells that are most represented there.

The immune system contains T cells that they can use specific receptors to find and kill cancer cells. Unfortunately, patients often do not have enough of these immune cells to attack the cancer. fully and effectively.

In addition, the receivers are different for each patient, so finding an efficient way to isolate them and insert them into immune cells is challenging. clue to generate a cellular therapy personalized against cancer

The new research reports an efficient way of isolate these immune receptors of the patient’s own blood using technologies developed by the Ribas team in collaboration, among others, with the Nobel David Baltimore and subsequently developed for testing by PACT Pharma.

personalized treatment

«It’s about a jump forward in the development of the UN personalized treatment for cancer wherein the isolation of immune receptors that specifically use the corresponds of the patient’s own cancer is used to treat it”, says Ribas.

After the administration of chemotherapy, patients were infused up to three of these immune cell preparations genetically edited, which meant the application of a total of 37 immunological receptors to the 16 patients who participated in the research. The treatment resulted in exactly of the disease in five of the 16 patients analyzed, while the other 11 experienced a progression, summarizes the magazine ‘Nature’. Only two patients showed adverse responses attributed to T-cell therapy (both recovered quickly), while all experienced the expected side effects of chemotherapy treatment.

Related news

Although the clinical benefit in terms of patient response was limited, the study demonstrates the potential feasibility of this therapeutic strategy, says ‘Nature’. Remember that the authors highlight some limitations of his approach, as the time necessary to characterize the potential heats and to isolate, clone and test T cell receptors.

However, the researchers indicate that some of the processes improved over time. trial duration and suggests that therefore son possible future improvements.