Scientists Discover ‘Possible’ Cure for Cancer

A team of scientists from Cardiff University discovered a method of killing prostate, breast, lung and other cancers in lab tests.

Effective treatment options for these types of cancer become increasingly limited over time as tumours become resistant to chemotherapy after several rounds of treatment. But scientists have now discovered T-cells equipped with a new type of T-cell receptor (TCR) which recognises and kills most human cancer types, while ignoring healthy cells.

“Cancer-targeting via MR1-restricted T-cells is an exciting new frontier,” says senior researcher and cancer immunotherapy specialist Andrew Sewell.

Like with any living organism, cancer cells don’t like to live in isolation. They communicate with other cells as part of a larger system, known as the microenvironment. But the biggest challenge researchers faced was knowing what cells in the microenvironment to target and finding ways to tailor treatments to these cells.

T-cells found in people’s blood is an immune cell that can scan the body to assess whether there is a threat that needs to be eliminated. T-cells equipped with the new TCR were shown to kill lung, skin, blood, colon, breast, bone, prostate, ovarian, kidney and cervical cancer cells, while ignoring healthy cells. Making way for the possibility of developing effective cancer treatments.

Lead study author Professor Andrew Sewell, from Cardiff University’s School of Medicine, said it was ‘highly unusual’ to find an attack cell which could accurately target so many types of cancer but still not healthy cells.

In CAR-T treatments, doctors extract T-cells from patients’ blood, genetically engineering them in the lab to make them specifically identify and target cancer cells. The edited T-cells are then multiplied in the lab before being administered to patients. However, it only targets a limited number of cancers and has not been successful for solid tumours, which make up most cancers. Further study is still needed to understand exactly how it recognises and kills cancer cells, while not responding to normal healthy cells.