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NK Cell Clinical Trial Begins for Incurable Cancer

Jul 16, 2019 10:12:00 AM / by Stacy Matthews Branch, DVM, PhD

Business man bridging the gap between two towers or parties made from wooden blocks; conflict management or mediator concept_AdobeStock_255540499-1New tests begin in the United States using stem cell-derived natural killer cells to help patients suffering from incurable cancer.

Curing the incurable is an ongoing and top endeavor in medical research. This is particularly true for the various forms of cancer that are difficult to treat. The investigation and use of immunotherapy as an option for the treatment of different forms of cancer continues to increase. The main immunotherapeutic approach to cancer involves harvesting stem cells from the patient or a donor. Given the logistics, cost, and time this approach takes, the development of a strategy or cell products that can be used on demand is much desired.

Some forms of cancer can resist or become unresponsive to the more-used cell therapies available. Earlier this year, a patient with stage IV colon cancer that is resistant to aggressive therapy is the first to enter a phase I clinical trial using human induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)–derived cell therapy. iPSC cells can be derived from any type of cell in the body and induced to differentiate into any cell type. These specialized adult cells can be genetically reprogrammed to become stem-cell like.

An iPSC-derived natural killer (NK) cell cancer immunotherapy, approved by the U.S. FDA, was developed as a collaborative effort between UC San Diego Health and Fate Therapeutics. The iPSC’s ability of self-renewal and to differentiate into any cell type is harnessed to provide off-the-shelf NK cells with potent cancer-killing properties. The use of iPSCs to generate NK cells does not depend on donors, patient matching, or harvesting from the patients and uses significantly fewer resources, time, and expense. Massive numbers of cells can be produced without the need for individual apheresis donors usually used to obtain peripheral blood NK cells.

The results of this trial will likely be available in a few years. Meanwhile, studies continue for the development of other therapeutic iPSCs. Since their discovery, iPSCs have been used primarily for basic research and drug screening. Now, the medical application is being examined, and there is much hope for its place in modern and effective cancer immunotherapy.

HemaCare is proud to offer cells and tissues which support innovative immunotherapy research across the globe.

Reference:  PhD, Y. (2019). Cancer: 'Off-the-shelf' stem cell treatment enters clinical trialMedical News Today. Retrieved 21 May 2019, from

Topics: Cancer, NK Cells, Immunotherapy (Immunology)

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