Just a few months ago, London-based Cell Medica teamed up with investigators at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas to develop new cell therapies that they felt could overcome the early limitations seen in CAR-T for solid tumors. Now they’ve decided to quickly step up the collaboration and aim straight at an off-the-shelf CAR-T that could rival the personalized treatments nearing regulatory submissions.
The CAR-T field, as longtime observers will know already, got started by extracting T cells from patients and then reengineering them with chimeric antigen receptors so that they could swarm cancer cells. In blood cancers that’s been an effective, though often dangerous, strategy that can spur cytokine release syndrome. And now Kite $KITE and Novartis $NVS are working on final submissions to regulators while Juno $JUNO plays catch-up.
But a number of players are already looking to jump past the autologous candidates and shooting for allogeneic, using T cells from healthy patients to create a less complex therapy that works by the same approach, trying to steer around any immune response that could be expected when you use someone else’s cells. Cellectis and several other players are shooting for off-the-shelf treatments.
In this case, Cell Medica and Baylor — one of the early pioneers in CAR-T research — are betting that NKT cells, or natural killer T cells, can be reengineered and used without spurring graft vs. host disease, as NKT cells “express special T cell receptors that are not associated with GvHD.”
That’s the theory, in any case. Now comes the early research work needed to prove it.
Dr. Leonid Metelitsa, a professor at Baylor, had this to say in a prepared statement:
“CAR-modified NKT cells offer several potential advantages for the treatment of cancer and the opportunity to develop an off-the-shelf product is a key consideration in this regard. The use of NKT cells simplifies the engineering of an allogeneic product and this should accelerate our development timelines towards first-in-human studies.”
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