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Cancer biology

T cells target solid tumours

A cancer therapy that uses genetically modified versions of patients' immune cells to treat blood cancers has been adapted to attack solid human tumours implanted into mice.

Engineered T cells are designed to home in on specific proteins on the surface of cancer cells in the blood — but adenocarcinomas, a common type of solid tumour, rarely carry such markers. Avery Posey and Carl June of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and their colleagues developed a way to modify human T cells so that they recognize abnormal forms of a sugar molecule linked to a cell-surface protein that is abundant in many cancers. The authors found that in a mouse model of human pancreatic adenocarcinoma, all animals treated with these T cells survived until the end of the experiment, compared with only 40% of untreated controls.

Protein-linked sugars are a promising target for cancer immunotherapy, the team says.

Immunity 44, 1444–1454 (2016)

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T cells target solid tumours. Nature 534, 593 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/534593d

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