Immune-system T cells have been reprogrammed into regenerative stem cell-like memory (TSCM) cells that are long-lived, highly active “super immune cells” with strong antitumor activity, according to new research from Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.
The reprogramming involves a novel approach the researchers developed that inhibits the activity of proteins known as MEK1/2. Currently, several MEK inhibitors are used to effectively treat melanoma, but this study demonstrates that MEK inhibitors don’t just target certain types of cancer cells, but rather, more broadly, reprogram T cells to fight many types of cancer.
The finding appears November 23, 2020, in Nature Immunology.
“Although immunotherapies have improved survival for cancer patients over recent years, survival rates remain sub-optimal. Therefore, there is an urgent need to develop novel, more effective anti-cancer immunotherapies,” says Samir N. Khleif, MD, director of The Jeannie and Tony Loop Immuno-Oncology Laboratory and head of the team that conducted this research. “Our research shows that using drugs that have already been approved for human use may significantly enhance currently available immune therapeutic approaches, thereby leading to better and more durable anti-cancer responses.”