California’s stem cell agency has awarded $5.8 million to UC San Diego researchers to develop a new variation of cancer immunotherapy. The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, or CIRM, approved the grant last week to adapt CAR T-cell technology to fight cancer stem cells.
Here’s how CAR T-cell therapy works: Doctors genetically engineer a patient’s T cells, part of the immune system, to recognize a protein, called an antigen, on cancer cells so they can destroy them.
Rockett, facing amputation of his tongue when he met Cohen, was given another kind of cancer immunotherapy, two drugs called checkpoint inhibitors that remove a molecular cloak that cancer cells use to hide from the immune system.
Cohen said the newly funded work with CAR T cells builds on earlier UC San Diego research that identified a receptor on some cancer cells as a promising new target. That’s been a challenge to find with cancer stem cells, because their genetic activity somewhat resembles that of normal stem cells.
In cell culture tests, CAR T cells with the ROR1 receptor kill cancer stem cells with the receptor in those difficult cancers.