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Cancer therapy pioneer uses the word ‘cure’ after CAR-T breakthrough

February 9, 2022

Cancer therapy pioneer uses the word ‘cure’ after CAR-T breakthrough

A new longitudinal study of cancer patients treated with a revolutionary type of cell therapy has shown such promising results that researchers believe it may one day be a cure.

A new longitudinal study of cancer patients treated with a revolutionary type of cell therapy has shown such promising results that researchers believe it may one day be a cure.

The study of two patients treated with chimeric antigen receptor T (CAR-T) cells a decade ago has revealed both have remained cancer-free since going into remission following their therapy.

CAR-T therapy uses the body’s own immune cells to fight cancer by extracting the T cells responsible for fighting diseases, genetically modifying them to recognise and attack tumour cells, and then infusing them back into the body.

Earlier research into CAR-T had shown its effectiveness putting patients into remission, but this latest study revealed the modified cells were still active within two patients a decade after being infused, with these patients remaining cancer free.

University of Pennsylvania researcher and CAR-T trailblazer Professor Carl June, who led the study, said it was a “big surprise” to find the cells working so long after treatment began.

The research described how, in these patients, the CAR-T cells remain ‘on patrol’ long after infusion.

Fellow University of Pennsylvania researcher Professor David Porter added that the team behind the treatments had no idea they would be this effective – even going so far as to suggest curative potential.

“Cancer doctors don’t use words like ‘cure’ lightly or, frankly, very often,” he said.

“But we now have patients … who haven’t relapsed, and we really believe that we can start to use the word ‘cure’.”

To date, CAR-T has only been approved for certain blood cancers (some leukemias and multiple myeloma), however research is underway to develop CAR-T therapies that are effective against other cancers, including solid tumours.

‘A bold declaration’

Steven Yatomi-Clarke, CEO of local CAR-T biotech company Prescient Therapeutics (ASX: PTX), said it was “incredibly exciting” that the first iterations of these treatments have proven so effective.

“It’s giving these very conservative cancer doctors the confidence to use a word [“cure”] they’ve never ever used in the history of cancer,” he said.

“Until now, cancer treatments have aimed to reduce the amount of cancer in the body; prolong remission by months or years, improve survival rates five years post treatment and improve quality of life. But no one’s ever used the word ‘cure’, let alone someone of Carl June’s standing, so it’s a pretty bold declaration.” 

Though not directly involved in the research, Prescient has licensed technology from University of Pennsylvania and is working closely with several of the school’s researchers to further develop a next-generation CAR-T ‘platform’ called OmniCAR, which also incorporates technology from Oxford University and other assets.

This platform gives doctors a new level of control over the CAR-T cells, which enables cancer-killing activity of the cells to be controlled and directed against any cancer target – even switching from one target to another if the cancer mutates.

Mr Yatomi-Clarke said the next step in the development of CAR-T treatments will be to make them cheaper, safer and more effective, including against different cancer types. 

“What we’re trying to do with OmniCAR is address all three obstacles for new therapies: make them work better, make them safer, and make them at scale and more affordable,” he said.

“We can treat more cancers and access a lot more patients if you’re able to drive down the costs and make a safer product that works better.”

OmniCAR: a universal platform

Prescient differs from other cell therapy companies in that they are building a platform, OmniCAR, that can enhance any CAR-T therapy, rather than focusing their efforts on a specific set of targets or binders.

“I’m hoping that OmniCAR will be front and centre of cancer treatment, because it’s agnostic and can work with any binder and with any type of immune cell,” Mr Yatomi-Clarke said.

“The whole field’s moving in parallel with us, but the good thing is we can play with everyone. I think we can really help accelerate the development of the whole field – for Prescient and for everyone else.

“With cancer, cells are the problem and cells will be the answer; and we’ve just started to scratch the surface of the possibility of harnessing these amazing immune cells.”

Prescient Therapeutics CEO Steven Yatomi-Clarke will be presenting on Reach Markets’ The Insider: Meet the CEOs session on Wednesday, 16th February, at 12pm (AEDT). Click here to register.

Reach Markets have been engaged by PTX to assist with their investor communications.

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