Inside the lab: Training your immune system to fight cancer
July 11, 2016 | by Denise Heady
Soon, brain cancer will be treated differently. Just ask scientist Christine Brown, Ph.D. A nationally known researcher and newly appointed Heritage Provider Network Professor in Immunotherapy at City of Hope, Brown is on the forefront of a specific kind of immunotherapy: CAR T cell therapy. This type of therapy trains patients’ own immune system to kill cancer cells.
Brown, with chief of neurosurgery Behnam Badie, M.D., F.A.C.S., is currently conducting a first-in-human phase 1 trial for patients with advanced brain tumors. This trial uses a patients’ own modified T cells to fight their tumors and is designed to target the tumor head-on by delivering the treatment directly into the brain.
City of Hope is one of only a few cancer centers in the United States offering human studies in CAR T cell therapy, and is the only cancer center investigating CAR T cells in injection form, administered directly to brain tumors.
Here, Brown, associate director of the T Cell Immunotherapy Laboratory at City of Hope, tells us how this type of therapy works and what it means for future treatment.
What is CAR T cell therapy?
CAR T cell therapy is an exciting and novel approach to cancer therapy, in which a patient’s immune system is reprogrammed to recognize and hopefully destroy their tumor.
How does this type of therapy work?
We isolate T cells from a patient, activate them and engineer them to express a novel cancer targeting receptor — termed a CAR. We then expand the reprogrammed T cells to large numbers and infuse them back to the patient as a personalized form of immunotherapy.
How is City of Hope using CAR T therapy?
City of Hope has been one of the leaders in the CAR T cell field. We are making breakthroughs using this therapy for many different types of cancers. For brain tumors, we’re very excited about our progress in targeting a novel receptor expressed by glioblastoma, and our unique local delivery strategy. We believe these innovations will make a difference in improving patient outcomes.
How is this therapy being used to treat brain tumors?
We are doing groundbreaking work against many different cancers using this therapy - including brain tumors. For brain tumors, City of Hope was the first to apply CAR T cell therapy to patients with glioblastoma, which is one of the most difficult to treat solid tumors.
I believe that CAR T cells have dramatic potential, not only against solid tumors, but one of the most difficult to treat solid tumors - glioblastoma.
Learn more about City of Hope's Brain Tumors Program. If you are looking for a second opinion or consultation about your cancer treatment, request an appointment online or contact us at 800-826-HOPE. Please visit Making Your First Appointment for more information.
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