IMMUNOTHERAPY AT THE LEADING EDGE:
The new cancer treatment developed at Penn uses gene-editing to modify T cells so they more effectively target certain cancers other than leukemia. Penn appears to have filed a patent on the idea last October, according to European patent records.
A proposal for a small safety study will be presented Tuesday by Penn doctors Carl June, Joseph Melenhorst, and Edward Stadtmauer, according to an updated agenda of the Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee, which reviews gene therapy studies.
Up to 15 patients could receive the treatment at three sites: Penn, the University of California, San Francisco, and the MD Anderson Cancer Center. The study involves complex safety issues, such as whether the alterations achieved using gene editing will be accurate enough, and there is no guarantee it will go forward.
The treatment envisions removing a cancer patient’s T cells and then re-infusing them a month later following genetic alterations to their DNA designed to cause them to zero in on, and destroy, the tumors.
“One of our key areas of focus is to develop novel approaches to modify T cells to enhance their function,” said Jenifer Haslip, a spokesperson for the billionaire’s nonprofit, called the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, headquartered in San Francisco.
“CRISPR technology provides an opportunity to profoundly manipulate cells,” according to a statement provided by Haslip. “We’re excited to be part of the first clinical effort in the United States to combine these two powerful therapeutic approaches to treat a devastating disease like cancer.”