Stem Cell Technology Can Mass-Produce Tumor Targeting Cells

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T-cellA new clinical application for existing and future stem cell technologies focuses on creating specialized T cells designed to target and attack tumor cells.

While, in theory, cancerous cells can be fought by the white blood cells known as T cells, they often bypass the opportunity to attack a cancerous mass or tumor cells. But new research being led by the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York is attempting an approach that reprograms T cells to attack specific types of cancer.

The process by which scientists reprogrammed the cells began with healthy adult human T cells, which were then turned into malleable stem cells with embryonic properties – known as induced pluriponent stem cells, or iPScs. The iPScs could
then be engineered to create a tumor-specific receptor molecule before reacquiring their T cell properties; all the while expanding and reproducing in large groups.

Each one of these reprogrammed T cells was now able to target a particular cancer protein and attack it en masse. When cultivated to target lymphoma, the lab-grown T cells not only significantly suppressed the tumor growth, but also increased survival rates markedly.

The next step in the development of these versatile pluripotent stem cells will be to create T cells targeted towards different forms of cancer and tumors, and then create ready-to-go, “off the shelf” versions for treatment, following extensive testing.

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