Page URL: https://www.bionews.org.uk/page_95820

Gene-targeted therapy successful in treating 'undruggable' colon cancer

12 December 2016
Appeared in BioNews 881

Researchers have successfully treated a woman with cancer using her own immune cells to target a cancer-causing gene that had previously been considered 'undruggable'.

Although the study only involved one patient – 50-year-old Celine Ryan, who had advanced colon cancer that had spread into her lungs – the gene targeted is thought to drive 95 percent of all pancreatic cancers and 45 percent of all colorectal cancers.

The mutant gene, called KRAS, is part of a family of mutations that collectively cause more than 30 percent of all human cancers. Attempts to target these mutations with drugs have so far been unsuccessful.

Researchers at the US National Cancer Institute isolated immune cells from Ryan's tumours, which had the mutation G12D, which is seen in around 13 percent of colorectal cancer patients. They then grew 100 billion of these cells – called tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) – and injected them into her bloodstream, along with interleukin-2, which stimulate these immune cells. All seven of her tumourS disappeared with the treatment.

The results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

'This study demonstrates for the first time that this method of administering TILs, called adoptive T-cell transfer immunotherapy, can mediate effective anti-tumour immune responses against cancers that express the KRAS G12D mutation,' explained Dr Steven Rosenberg of National Cancer Institute's Centre for Cancer Research, who led the study.

TILs are T-killer cells that have surface proteins (receptors) which attach onto proteins on the surface of cancer cells, known as tumour antigens, marking them for attack by the immune system. 'We have also identified multiple T-cell receptors that recognise this KRAS product, thus opening the possibility of T-cell receptor gene therapy against multiple types of cancer that express this common mutation,' added Dr Rosenberg.

Dr Carl June of the University of Pennsylvania, who was not involved in the study, said to the New York Times: 'It has huge implications. Every single pancreatic cancer patient has KRAS.' The big question, he added, is whether this case is 'one in a million, or something that can be replicated and built upon'.

The approach has already shown success in treating advanced melanoma, a type of skin cancer. Dr Rosenberg has achieved long-term remissions in 20 to 25 percent of the patients he has treated.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
1 Patient, 7 Tumors and 100 Billion Cells Equal 1 Striking Recovery
New York Times |  7 December 2016
Cancer Breakthrough Aids One Patient, Raises Hopes for Many
Wall Street Journal |  7 December 2016
Cellular immunotherapy targets a common human cancer mutation
National Institutes for Health (press release) |  7 December 2016
Drugging the Undruggable Ras - Immunotherapy to the Rescue?
NEJM (editorial) |  8 December 2016
T-Cell Transfer Therapy Targeting Mutant KRAS in Cancer
NEJM |  8 December 2016
RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE
6 April 2020 - by Dr Nicoletta Charolidi 
A new study characterising the microenvironment of colorectal cancers has revealed a distinct population of cells, residing next to tumour-initiating stem cells, which themselves promote the start of tumour growth in the colon...
22 July 2019 - by Dr Yvonne Collins 
Researchers have identified a gene, active in the early stages of development, that may help conceal cancers from common immunotherapy treatment...
17 December 2018 - by Martha Henriques 
Two genetic markers linked to an aggressive, treatment-resistant form of colorectal cancer...
2 October 2017 - by Rachel Reeves 
New potential drug targets have been identified for cancers associated with KRAS gene mutations, which are thought to drive around 20-30 percent of all human cancers...
14 August 2017 - by Ebtehal Moussa 
Over a 100 new genes that may be essential for cancer immunotherapy to work have been identified using a new CRISPR-based screen...
7 March 2016 - by Dr Molly Godfrey 
Scientists have identified a method by which all the cells in a tumour could potentially be recognised and eradicated by the patient's own immune system...
22 February 2016 - by Julianna Photopoulos 
Trials using genetically engineered immune cells have shown 'extraordinary results' in treating blood cancers in terminally ill patients, say researchers...
9 November 2015 - by Lone Hørlyck 
An experimental cell-based treatment using gene editing, previously only tested on mice, has successfully reversed advanced leukaemia in a one-year-old girl...
13 April 2015 - by Dr Nicoletta Charolidi 
A new type of cancer vaccine that enriches the immune system with tailor-made anti-tumour antibodies has shown early signs of promise...
19 May 2014 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca has presented trial data from an experimental lung cancer drug...
HAVE YOUR SAY
Log in to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions


Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.