Genetically engineered immune cells that target a protein found on some pancreatic tumours can penetrate that cancer's defences, according to studies in mice.
Harnessing engineered T cells to combat cancer has been more successful for blood cancers than for solid tumours, such as those of the pancreas, which are protected by a dense cellular barrier and are particularly deadly. Philip Greenberg and Sunil Hingorani of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington, and their colleagues engineered T cells to recognize a protein called mesothelin that is associated with the spread of certain pancreatic tumours. The engineered T cells were able to bind to this protein more tightly than did normal T cells.
The engineered cells infiltrated pancreatic tumours in mice, leading to an increase in tumour-cell death compared with control mice. Mice that received a series of engineered T-cell infusions lived nearly twice as long as those that did not.
Cancer Cell http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ccell.2015.09.022 (2015)
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Altered T cells hit pancreatic cancer. Nature 527, 11 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/527011a