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Will T Cells Be the Future Basis of Cancer Therapy?

Mar 12, 2014 6:00:07 AM / by Maria

Recent data suggest that the average person has about a 40% chance of developing cancer at some point in his or her lifetime. [1] If those statistics are not frightening enough, let’s talk treatment: chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, chemical-based drug therapy, or a combination of the above. And don’t forget the various side effects of cancer therapy, many of which are a result of the destruction of crucial adult stem cells in the body. Because of this, stem cell transplants have been performed with fresh stem cells originating from bone marrow, peripheral blood, or cord blood to help replenish a patient’s hematopoietic system.


There are only a very few extremely effective treatment options available for most types of cancer with the benefits being either short-lasting or not sustainable due to developed resistance and inevitable disease progression post-treatment. Even worse, these therapies can be risky and end up creating new problems for the patient, ranging from severe nausea and hair loss to therapy-related myelodysplastic syndrome and acute myeloid leukemia (t-MDS/t-AML). Fortunately, there are emerging new areas of research with promising results such as cancer cell immunotherapy, which we cover in this three-part series.

Cancer Cell Immunotherapy

The beauty of cell-based immunotherapy lies in the source of its anti-cancer potential, a patient’s own immune system. The process begins and ends in the patient with the goal of arming his or her immune system with enhanced effector T cells, but there are a couple of slightly different approaches. The simplest method involves isolating patient T cells (or those from an HLA matched donor) and expanding them in vitro.  These T cells can then be activated by mitogenic stimulation and re-infused into the patient. This approach has lead to remarkable tumor shrinkage and dissemination.

. TCR and CAR-modified T cells are genetically engineered, which we cover later in this series of posts.

Thanks to previous research using T cells, like those available from HemaCare, well established protocols for in vitro T cell expansion and activation already exist.  Utilizing the anti-tumor properties of these T cell transplants is exciting in itself but as you may expect, ambitious cancer researchers are not stopping there. In Part II and III of this series, we will discuss ways to engineer T cells and Hematopoietic stem cells, respectively, to be even more effective.


[1] SEER Cancer Statistics Review (CSR) 1975-2010.

[2] Karmakar, S. (2014) Cell Based Immunotherapy: As a Promising Futuristic Solution for Effective Cancer Therapy. Single-Cell Biology, 3:1.

[3] Vitali Alexeev, Alyson Pidich, Daria Marley Kemp and Olga Igoucheva (2013). Recombinant DNA Technology in Emerging Modalities for Melanoma Immunotherapy, Melanoma - From Early Detection to Treatment, Dr. Ht Duc (Ed.), ISBN: 978-953-51-0961-7, InTech, DOI: 10.5772/55357.

Topics: antibodies, Bone Marrow, Cancer, Cell Therapy, Cord Blood, Drug Discovery, PBMCs, Stem Cell Therapy, Stem Cells, T Cells, T lymphocytes, Tumors, Basic Research, Immunotherapy (Immunology)


Written by Maria

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