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3D illustration of a close-up of T cells.
For most anticancer drugs to work, patients are required to have sufficient numbers of reactive T cells, which is often not the case.
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Lab-Grown T Cells and Immunotherapy Combo Shows Promise

Combination of immunotherapy and lab-cultivated T cells may improve survival in several types of cancer cases

University of Southern Denmark
Published:Feb 07, 2024
|2 min read
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Over the past two decades, immunotherapy has emerged as a groundbreaking treatment for various types of cancer. The body's own T cells possess a remarkable capacity to identify and fight a range of cancers. However, cancer cells frequently develop the ability to weaken the activity of T cells or evade immune response altogether.

“We already have several drugs that inhibit the weakening of T cells. But even the most effective drugs vary greatly in effect depending on the type of cancer being treated,” explains Odd Gammelgaard, PhD, one of the researchers behind the newly published study.

A limiting factor in the use of these drugs is the requirement for patients to have sufficient numbers of reactive T cells that can distinguish between healthy and diseased cells, which is often not the case. To address this, technologies have been developed that enable the selection and cultivation of T cells in the laboratory.

Cultivating T cells from patients’ blood

The biotech company Cytovac has developed a new technology where they draw the patient’s blood and then isolate and grow T cells in a laboratory setting. These lab-cultivated T cells are subsequently reintroduced into the patients. 

In a new study, researchers from the University of Southern Denmark and Odense University Hospital,  have shown that if the lab-cultivated T cells are administered in combination with drugs that prevent cancer cells from inhibiting the T cell activity, the effect against the cancer is significantly increased. 

Clinical use may take time 

Initially, the treatment has been tested on animal models with triple-negative breast cancer. “In the long term, we aim to offer this combination treatment to patients with triple-negative breast cancer. The only requirement for the patient to receive this treatment would be repeated blood donations. We expect that the combination treatment also will affect other types of cancer, but this remains to be established. 

The first step from here is to test whether we can achieve the same findings in humans who receive the treatment. It is a lengthy process, so it is too early to say when and if patients will benefit from this new combined treatment,” says Gammelgaard.

- This press release was originally published on the University of Southern Denmark website