Researchers add power to anti-tumor cells

Li Qian
Biologist Xu Chenqi and his team have genetically engineered tumor-fighting T cells so they can multiply and extend their existence in the body with tests of mice proving positive. 
Li Qian

Local researchers say they have found a way to make tumor-fighting T cells more powerful.

T cells, a type of white blood cell, act as natural guards in the body because receptors (TCRs) on their surface can recognize tumor antigens and trigger an immune response.

As not all TCRs work on tumor antigens, scientists genetically engineered T cells, equipping them with artificial receptors called chimeric antigen receptors (CARs), to allow them to accurately find and kill tumor cells.

This has evolved to a cutting-edge CAR-T therapy to treat cancer patients, offering a promising alternative to chemotherapy and radiation. However, the genetically engineered T cells don’t exist long in the body, and patients may have a relapse.

Biologist Xu Chenqi has been dedicated to research on regulating the function of T cells. He found that CD3e molecules on TCRs play a key role in the signaling machinery containing both activating and inhibitory functions.

By adding CD3e into genetically engineered T cells, their ability to multiply and extend their existence to fight tumor cells can be boosted and, meanwhile, reduce cytokine toxicity, according to Xu and his team from the Center for Excellence in Molecular Cell Science under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

In tests on mice, the fine-tuned genetically engineered T cells became more powerful than earlier versions. Xu said they will continue the study, hoping to launch clinical trials as soon as possible.

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