A novel approach for the generation in culture of T lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) that recognise a range of markers on tumour cells could potentially be suitable for the treatment of glioblastoma multiforme, according to preliminary clinical results published in Nature Communications.
Adoptive transfer of immune cells (the transfer of white blood cells to a patient), including T lymphocytes, has shown positive therapeutic effects in clinical trials of advanced cancers. A critical determinant of tumour eradication by this process is the recognition of a cancer-specific antigen by T lymphocytes. However, many studies report great variation in the expression of individual antigens across tumour types and stages, as well as within tumours.
To target the widest possible repertoire of cancer-specific antigens, Alexei Kirkin and colleagues developed a method based on the adoptive transfer of patient-derived T lymphocytes with specificity for multiple 'personalized' antigens. The authors induced the production of T lymphocytes in culture by treating cells derived from patients with a specific drug called 5-aza-2’-deoxycytidine. They also report some preliminary results from a phase I trial (still ongoing) of 25 patients with recurrent glioblastoma multiforme where the injection of these T cells led to tumour regression in three patients, with no side effects.
Based on these results the authors suggest that this strategy could be considered for treating other cancers. However, the clinical trial is at an early stage and its completion is needed to fully appreciate the potential of such an approach.