Genetically engineered immune cells can beat some types of cancer


It is possible to genetically engineer your immune system in some cases to eradicate cancers such as T-cell leukaemia.

One of the greatest things about the immune system, is its ability to work without your conscious awareness. It fights bacteria and viruses every single day. Most cancers are also killed off before they can become serious. Sometimes, cancers can get around the immune system. Many cancer therapies depend on restoring that effectiveness. CAR T-cell therapy is a rising star, and has shown remarkable results in some cases of cancers that had previously failed to receive conventional treatments.

This amazing technology is based on T-cells. These immune cells patrol the body and kill cancerous or infected cells. T-cells recognize their targets by a receptor that protrudes from the surface of their cells and binds to either a target protein or a fragment of a protein on the outside of other cell. This means that T-cells can be made to target any type of cancer if they have the right receptor.

This is possible by genetically altering T-cells from a person to express a “chimeric antibody receptor”. The artificial receptor is composed of three proteins. One recognizes the target cancer cell and the other two boost T-cell activity.

These cells are multiplied by doctors and returned to their owners. They then seek out and destroy any cells that contain the target protein.

It is now possible to say that some of those first treated for cancer have remained healthy a decade later.