Researchers have developed an approach that’s set to treat pancreatic cancer through immunotherapy using ‘educated’ killer cells. It was also discovered that even the cancer cells that had already spread to the lungs and the liver were killed. The new therapy was conducted in mice and has not yet been experimented in humans.

Here’s how the study was conducted:

  • The scientists used pancreatic cancer cells from humans with advanced pancreatic cancer and transplanted the cells into mice. The mice’ own immune cells had already been modified to specifically identify and kill the cancer cells. The modified cells also labelled as ‘educated’ killer cells are known as CART-T cells.
  • The immunotherapy using the CAR-T cells has shown positive outcomes in blood cancers, but when treating solid tumors, it has presented toxic side effects. The researchers are working on developing more safe and effective CAR-T cell therapies for the solid tumors like pancreatic cancer.
  • The research team also introduced new technology that allows total control of the activity of the CART-T cell to make them safer.
  • Their study suggests that the new switchable CAR-T cells can be administered to human patients with pancreatic cancer and still control the activity of the CAR-T cells at a level that will kill the tumor without presenting toxic side effects to the normal tissues.
  • Since the treatment is switchable, the researchers can turn the therapy on or off or adjust the activity to the desired level. This will make the therapy safer and reduce the side effects and will also be controlled by administering or withdrawing the switch molecule in the mice.

This research highlights the potential of CAR-T cell immunotherapy in curing pancreatic cancer. For over forty years there has been little progress on developing new treatments for pancreatic cancer – a devastating cancer with very low survival rates. The results of this study are promising, but more has to be done to make the outcomes safe to be administered to pancreatic cancer patients in hospitals.