Using new immunotherapy methods to treat lymphoma and leukaemia in A-T

Research Project information

Principal researcher: Dr Elad Jacoby
Institute: Sheba Medical Centre, Israel
Cost: £143,400 over 18 months
Start Date: 1st of March 2020

What are the researchers proposing to do?
Immunotherapy is a type of treatment for cancer which prompts the body’s own immune system to identify and destroy cancerous cells. The main players are called T-cells, which are a type of white blood cells that play a central role in immune response. Recently, CAR-T cell therapy, a form of immunotherapy with specialised T-cells, has been approved for treatment of leukaemia and lymphoma. These are made from the patient’s own blood cells, which are modified to produce special structures called chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) on their surface. CAR T cells have been shown to be extremely effective in the therapy of blood cancers, without producing the usual side-effects resulting from chemotherapy. Dr Jacoby and his team will test the safety and efficacy of such cells for patients with A-T in this study – assessing specific concerns associated with this underlying condition.

Patients with A-T have an increased risk of cancer, especially blood cancers or lymphoma. Currently treatment of cancer in these patients is extremely challenging, due to a significantly increased risk of life-threatening side effects as a result of conventional cancer therapy.

CAR T cells are highly effective but have not been studied in patients with A-T, and little is known regarding the feasibility of producing the special T cell modifications which are required. This is important because of the known problems with the immune system and genetic alterations in A-T. Thus, the researchers will investigate the production of such cells from the immune cells of patients with A-T and the safety and effectiveness of these cells.

How will the research be done?

The team will ask patients with A-T to give a blood sample, for isolation of immune cells and altering them in the laboratory to CAR T-cells. They will check whether this process is as efficient in controls. They will also test whether these cells are able to attack blood cancers, and if the process of change into CAR-T cells affects the genetic stability of these cells.

 How could it make a difference to the lives of those affected by A-T?
Currently, no standard therapies are available for patients with A-T who have blood cancers. The risk of chemotherapy is substantial. The team hope that if their study can demonstrate that this approach works, it could be the first step in this being offered early in the course of treatment for patients with A-T.  CAR T cells are available now commercially or through clinical trials in many countries.