CAR-T therapy is one of the most advanced immunotherapies to date. In CAR-T therapy, some of a cancer patient’s key immune cells, called T cells, are removed and engineered in a way that they begin to produce new surface proteins called chimeric antigen receptors (CARs). Those receptors allow the cells to recognize and attack cancer cells more effectively. After expanding the number of these engineered T cells in the lab, doctors infuse them back into patients to enhance their immune systems’s ability to seek-and-destroy their cancer.
Nevertheless, there are also limitations of this fabulous immunotherapy. To begin with, CAR-T therapy relies solely on a T cell’s natural activation program, which can be toxic to patients if the immune cells damage healthy tissues. In other patients, the response simply isn’t strong enough to eradicate a cancer.
Moreover, CAR-Ts are matured against an antigen presented on the surface of cancer cells, antigens which are highly heterogeneous within and between cancers and remodel in the face of resistance to treatment. Given that most cancer mutations involve non-surface proteins, it’s clear that the CAR-Ts can not represent a broadly applicable solution.
Fighting Cancer with Next-Gen Cell Engineering by Dr. Francis Collins