The Future of Cancer Looks Bright With Engineered Cells

CURE, Hematology Special Issue (October) 2021, Volume 1, Issue 1

Engineered cell technology is an example of ingenuity that brings together cutting-edge laboratory science and clinical trials to address aggressive cancers.

The 1966 movie "Fantastic Voyage" envisioned a nanotechnologic approach to fighting disease using miniaturized tools. In 2017, the Food and Drug Administration approved the United States’ first chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cell therapy, which employs an immune cell that has been adapted to recognize tumor-specific antigens and destroy the cells that bear them. Since then, the field of engineering cells has matured as researchers begin to dive into the potential use of natural killer (NK) cells through the same technology used for CAR-T cells, but, hopefully, with less of the collateral damage that can result from excessive immune activation and inflammation. Although we are still learning about NK cells, we do know that they function similarly to CAR-T cells as effector lymphocytes of the immune system and work to control several types of tumors and microbial infections.

Currently, there is much sophisticated research behind the new therapy, and it is hoped that it may also have fewer side effects than CAR-T cell therapy. In this special issue of CURE®, read more about the therapy and how it’s being used in different types of blood cancers. One patient tells his story of receiving NK cell therapy through clinical trials after receiving a diagnosis of metastatic lymphoma in the throat, lung and liver. His disease went back into remission in early 2021, and he is thankful for the novel therapy. Another patient, who received a diagnosis of multiple myeloma in 2016, participated in a clinical trial in which she received a dose of allogeneic NK cells. She experienced no side effects except fatigue. Both patient outcomes show promising results of the new therapy for hematologic cancers. Engineered cell technology is an example of ingenuity that brings together cutting-edge laboratory science and clinical trials to address aggressive cancers in a “Star Wars”-style strategy that is already paying off yet continues to evolve as a potential option for more common types of cancers.

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