UCLA and California Institute of Technology scientists from the UCLA Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research (Broad Stem Cell Research Center [BSCRC]) and the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center (JCCC) led by James Heath, member of both centers, professor of molecular & medical pharmacology at UCLA and professor of chemistry at Caltech, have made an important discovery to improve a promising treatment for melanoma, an often deadly form of skin cancer. The breakthrough was published online ahead of print today in Cancer Discovery.

“Our results have led us to possible ways to improve the T cell therapy to extend its positive effect,” Heath confirmed. “We need to incorporate strategies that maintain the functional properties of the engineered T cells used for therapy. This might include modifying how we grow the T cells in the laboratory to make their tumor-killing effect last longer, or make them resistant to the effects of the patient’s T cells during recovery from conditioning, and possibly increase the antigen spreading of antitumor T cells.”

One of Heath’s key collaborators, Dr. Antoni Ribas, UCLA professor of medicine and also a member of the BSCRC and JCCC said, “One of the possible approaches to resolve the problem identified by this study is to use engineered blood stem cells instead of the peripheral blood used in the original trials with this therapy with the hope that the engineered blood stem cells will provide a renewable source of engineered T cells.” This approach is being moved forward into the clinic with clinical trials expected to open in two years.

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