Personalized cell ‘editing’ used to treat cancer patients for the first time: Study

Scientists have used CRISPR technology for the first time to insert genes that allow immune cells to attack cancer cells, potentially leaving normal cells unaffected and boosting the effectiveness of immunotherapy.

CRISPR gene editing technology has previously been used in humans to delete specific genes to make the immune system more active against cancer.

The research, published in the journal Nature, used CRISPR to not only remove specific genes, but also to insert new ones into immune cells so that they could be efficiently redirected to recognize mutations in the patient’s own cancer cells. .

When infected back to patients, these CRISPR-engineered immune cells traffic preferentially to the cancer and become the most over-represented immune cells there, the researchers said.

The human immune system has specific receptors on immune cells that can specifically recognize cancer cells and differentiate them from normal cells.

These are different for each patient, so finding an efficient way to isolate them and put them back into immune cells to generate personalized cell therapies to treat cancer is key to making this approach possible on a large scale. .

Patients had expected side effects from chemotherapy (Getty Images/Thinkstock)

Researchers found an effective way to isolate these immune receptors from a patient’s own blood.

After isolation, immune receptors are used to redirect immune cells to recognize the cancer using CRISPR gene editing.

“This is a leap forward in developing a personalized treatment for cancer, where isolates of immune receptors that specifically recognize mutations in the patient’s own cancer are used to treat cancer,” said University of California, Los Angeles. (UCLA) said Antoine Ribas. ), We.

Corresponding author of the research, Ribas said, “The generation of a personalized cell treatment for cancer would not be possible without the newly developed ability to use CRISPR technology to replace immune receptors in clinical-grade cell preparations in a single step. ” paper.

Researchers report treating 16 patients with different types of solid cancer, including colon, breast and lung cancer.

The patients had immune cells isolated from their blood, binding to capture reagents that displayed up to 350 mutations from the patient’s own cancer, a total of more than 5,000 mutations targeted in 34 flavors of the immune system’s HLA subtypes .

Genes of immune receptors that allowed immune cells to specifically recognize cancer mutations were sequenced, for a total of 175 newly isolated cancer-specific immune receptors.

They were then inserted back into the patient’s own immune cells using one-step CRISPR editing, which involved knock-out of existing immune cell receptors and knock-in of immune receptors that allow those cells to specifically recognize their mutation. could redirect to. cancer.

The patients had the expected side effects from chemotherapy, and two patients had possible side effects from the gene edited cells, one with fever and chills and the other with confusion, both of which recovered quickly, the researchers said.

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