Customizing T Cell-Based Immunotherapies in a ‘SNAP’

Through expanding the targeting capabilities of chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) and synthetic Notch (synNotch) receptors, University of Pittsburgh researchers have developed a “universal” receptor system that allows T cells to recognize any cell surface target. Given the potential previously seen in engineered antigen receptors, and CARs being the most clinically advanced of these technologies, the team of researchers began investigating a method to gain additional control over CAR function. By engineering T cells with receptors bearing a universal “SNAPtag”, CARs bind to the common tag molecule fused to the antigen-specific antibody, instead of directly binding antigen targets. This new approach allows for great expansion to antigen targeting and shows great promise in using CARs against additional immune-related diseases and other types of cancer.

Investigating Cancer Immunotherapy Effects on COVID-19 Outcomes

Recent findings from research led by University of Cincinnati researcher Trisha Wise-Drapher illuminate the effect of immunosuppression and immunotherapy for patients with cancer and COVID-19. This investigation began with a primary focus on understanding the effects of immunotherapy on COVID-19 severity, specifically if immunotherapy treatment is associated with worse clinical outcomes for cancer patients with COVID-19. The data of 12,046 patients was reviewed and evaluated with metrics including: whether patients were admitted to the hospital, if they required oxygen, or required ICU care. These analyses suggest that patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 that had baseline immunosuppression and followed immunotherapy treatment may have poorer clinical outcomes, whereas patients with immunotherapy alone had no change in outcome quality.

Cancer-seeking molecular delivery system could boost immunotherapy drug, research finds

For past decades, the treatment of cancer has generally meant surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or a combination of the above. Through recent work from a collaboration of researchers from the University of Rhode Island and Yale University comes the promising new approach of delivering immunotherapy agents, STING agonists, via a cancer-seeking molecular delivery system. The delivery relies on the acid-seeking molecule- pHLIP. These molecules deliver cargo directly to the tumor environment via targeting of the high acidity of cancerous tumors. Through this novel drug delivery technique, cancer immunotherapy may become even more effective.

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Immune cell ‘Soldier’ identified as potential target for immunotherapy

A newly discovered immune cell “soldier” may be the next target for immunotherapy. Termed killer innate-like T cells, these cells are unlike the traditional targets of immunotherapies, that is they exhaust at a slower rate and penetrate more deeply into the tissue. Killer innate-like T cells can recognize unmutated antigens and are not dependent on antigen-presenting cells. Instead the cells are constantly primed, ready to attack cancerous cells. Researchers hope these T cells, as compared to conventional T cells, may help in eliciting immune response in patients unresponsive to immunotherapy treatment.

Dual-drug treatment offers promise for advanced melanoma patients

An immunotherapy study suggests hopeful results for advanced melanoma patients. The study indicated that relatlimab and nivolumab elicited beneficial responses in patients with late-stage melanoma. Specifically, the phase 2-3 trial indicated that combination therapy extended progression free-survival despite an individual’s prognostic indicators. Through using both antibodies to inhibit two immune checkpoint pathways, greater immune response was stimulated against cancer cells. Continued research is centered on the effects of combination therapy for patients in different stages of melanoma progression.

Novel drug combination may boost chemoimmunotherapy response in bladder cancer patients

A proof-of-concept study suggests that the combination of anti-inflammatory medication and chemotherapy drugs can boost immune response to suppress bladder tumor growth. Led by Cedars-Sinai Cancer investigators, the study focused on tackling the immune-dampening effect of chemotherapy drugs. Research uncovered the underlying mechanism that results in chemotherapy treatment failure, the release of prostaglandin E2. This bioactive lipid is associated with inflammation and inhibits dendritic maturation. A preceding factor for cells to fight cancer. In addition, early investigation revealed potential in combining celecoxib, an anti-inflammatory medication, and chemotherapy drugs as improved immune response was observed in treated mice models. Researchers look to test the efficacy of the potential treatment in human trials for bladder cancer patients.

Two-pronged immunotherapy treatment tested for effectiveness against glioblastomas

Recent clinical trials at the University of Cincinnati are examining the effectiveness of a two-pronged immunotherapy procedure to treat glioblastomas, aggressive brain tumors. Current treatment involves the combination of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, as to ensure microscopic particles of cancerous tissue do not survive. But despite continued advancements over the past decade, patients with glioblastomas remain uncured. Current clinical trials utilize a two-pronged approach, administering a combination of two immunotherapy drugs in tandem, that target different immune checkpoint proteins to activate immune cells. Previous single immunotherapy treatment observed failure led to the two-pronged approach in current trials.

COVID-19 Hackers and Hustlers All Hands: Virtual Town Hall

This Thursday, Dr. Mark Poznansky and Dr. Patrick Reeves from VIC will join Boston’s Hackers and Hustlers Meetup for a virtual Town Hall. They’ll cover how to implement both immediate and mid/long-term solutions in the fight against COVID-19.

If you’d like to hear first-hand from experts in immunotherapy and have the chance to ask your own questions, please join on Thursday at 6pm ET.  View MeetUp details below.