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.