Scientists stumble across killer immune cell that can destroy most types of cancer in major step for a ‘one size fits all’ treatment
Exciting new cancer therapies may be on the horizon after experts stumbled across an immune cell that kills off multiple forms of the disease.
The new T-cells, a type of white blood cell, recognised and destroyed most types of cancers while leaving healthy tissue unscathed.
Scientists at Cardiff University were analysing blood samples for immune cells that may fight bugs when they made the discovery.
They say the new tumour-killing cell may one day provide a ‘one-size’ fits all cancer treatment which was once believed to be impossible.
But their latest study only looked at the T-cells’ effectiveness on cancer grown in a laboratory.
Animal and eventually human studies will be needed to test its true tumour-destroying abilities.
Doctors have for years been using a treatment called CAR-T therapy, which involves extracting patients’ own immune cells and genetically modifying them.
The form of immunotherapy sees the T-cells returned to the sufferer’s blood where they hunt and destroy cancer cells.
But the treatment only targets a limited number of cancers – including blood and bone marrow – and has not been successful for solid tumours, which make up the majority of disease cases.
T-cells find it difficult to differentiate tumour cells from healthy tissue because of their similar genetic make-up, so they tend to end up attacking them both.
However the new killer cell is able to distinguish between the two and only kill off the cancerous ones. The researchers are now investigating exactly how this is possible.
In the latest study, the cell type was found to destroy 10 cancers while ignoring healthy tissue in a laboratory dish.
It was effective at treating lung, skin, blood, colon, breast, bone, prostate, ovarian, kidney and cervical cancer.
Lead study author Professor Andrew Sewell, from Cardiff University’s School of Medicine, said it was ‘highly unusual’ to find an attack cell which could accurately target so many types of cancer but still not healthy cells.