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University of Minnesota Opened New NK-Cell Immunotherapy Clinical Trial

Dec 3, 2019 10:06:00 AM / by Stacy Matthews Branch, DVM, PhD

Experienced scientists are analyzing glass tubes_AdobeStock_110111178-1The new FT516 immunotherapy is the first iPSC-derived therapy approved for clinical testing in the world and may provide a treatment for many different types of cancers.

A collaboration between the University of Minnesota and Fate Therapeutics will begin clinical trials for a novel “off-the-shelf” targeted natural killer (NK) cell cancer immunotherapy derived from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). iPSCs are adult cells that have been genetically reprogrammed so that they regain the ability to differentiate into any cell type, making them pluripotent (similar to embryonic stem cells). The new NK cell therapy, FT516, is developed from genetically engineered human iPSCs with enhanced anti-tumor activity.

NK cells play a crucial role in targeting cancer immunotherapy, and their activation through the high-affinity CD16 receptor, which binds antibody-bound tumor cells, leads to powerful NK cell–mediated anti-tumor responses (e.g., direct tumor-cell attack, release of perforin, eliciting apoptosis). The enhanced NK cell CD16 receptor boosts its binding affinity to certain monoclonal antibodies and prevents shedding of the receptor from the NK cell surface, allowing maintained function. iPSCs possess unlimited self-renewal and have the potential to differentiate into all cell types of the body, a characteristic that could provide a wide range of applications for treatment of different cancers.   

The University of Minnesota Medical Center has opened the iPSC-derived cancer immunotherapy clinical trial for acute myeloid leukemia and B-cell lymphoma.  The endeavor can lead to the availability of a ready-to-use source of anti-tumor immunotherapy that can be mass produced. The researchers indicate that this immunotherapy can be produced in a cost-effective manner when compared to other anti-cancer cell therapies, primarily because they would not need to be patient specific.

The FT516 immunotherapy is the first iPSC-derived cell therapy approved for clinical testing in the world. This immunotherapeutic approach can represent a new option for cancer immunotherapy and enhancing the function of NK cells can provide more targeted destruction of cancer cells.

This study focused on NK cells, the same kind available through HemaCare.


University of Minnesota opens first-ever US clinical trial of engineered iPSC-derived cell therapy for blood cancer. (1571). EurekAlert!. Retrieved 15 November 2019, from

Fate Therapeutics Announces the Opening of its cGMP Manufacturing Facility Dedicated to iPSC-derived Cell Therapies | BioInformant. (2019). BioInformant. Retrieved 15 November 2019, from

Topics: NK Cells, Immunotherapy (Immunology)

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