T Cell Immunotherapy: From New Expansion Approaches to New Therapies

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Cytotoxic T-lymphocytes (CTL), a critical component of the human immune system, have been a growing target of interest in the search of new immunotherapies for the treatment of cancers and related ailments. The immuno-oncology field is not new, but there has been a renewed interest lately on the heels of a number of significant scientific and technological breakthroughs and important industry partnerships. Just a few weeks ago, the University of Pennsylvania released data from a CAR-T study, wherein they reported that 90% of patients (children and adults) with acute lymphoblastic leukemia who had relapsed multiple times, went into remission after administration of a T-cell therapy, CTL019, based on the patients’ own T cells. The data has since been hailed as “revolutionary” by some scientists.

Elsewhere, it is important to recognize the growing body of work concerned with progressing our abilities of obtaining T cells for therapy and increase our understanding of the capabilities of the current techniques and how they can be extended to achieve improved treatment options.

Novel methods for expansion of T cells are an example of this. Lately, new approaches for obtaining, expanding and transporting T cells have received growing interest. Serum-free, xeno-free media for T cell expansion are an important area of research. Alessando Rambaldi and colleagues recently reported on a novel GMP-compliant approach for ex vivo expansion of T cells from chronic lymphocytic leukemia patients’ peripheral blood for adoptive therapy. The expansion media is based on bispecific Ab blinatumomab and human rIL-2. The authors reported that they were able to expand 515 × 106 CD3+ T cells in 3 weeks starting from about 10 mL of the patients’ blood. The cells remains functional as shown in mice bioassay models.

While preliminary, the study is an interesting example of new efforts to expand our abilities of procuring T cell material in novel ways which have a higher chance of achieving immunocompatiblity and efficacy.


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