Isolate the problem
Experts agree that CAR-T cell therapy, a type of immunotherapy, was one of the most promising advancements of 2017, with companies like Juno Therapeutics and others leading the way.
The acronym CAR-T stands for chimeric antigen receptor therapy. In simple terms, CAR-T cell therapy isolates and extracts a patient’s own T-cells (i.e., the white blood cells that stimulate an immune response). Then, it re-engineers those cells with new proteins that recognize and destroy cancer cells once they’re reinfused back into the patient’s body.
The latest advancements in CAR-T cell therapy include the use of a genomic editing tool called CRISPR (which stands for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) that allows researchers to place the cancer-fighting proteins at very specific genomic locations. In 2017, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved two CAR-T cell therapies, one for the treatment of children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and the other for adults with advanced lymphomas. Research is underway to determine whether CAR-T cell therapy, which has been successful in treating blood cancers, is equally as effective for solid tumors. In January, physicians at the University of Pennsylvania announced a clinical trial in which they’ll use CRISPR to modify human immune cells to treat multiple myeloma, sarcoma, and melanoma. China has performed similar studies with promising results.