CAR T-Cell Therapy Earns Another FDA Approval

An Update on NETRF’s Funded Research in NETs

He is a pioneer whose work has helped extend the horizon of cancer care, creating a new category of individualized immunotherapy. Carl June, MD, has conducted 25 years of scientific research to advance CAR T-cell therapy. And all that knowledge is now helping to tackle NETs.

Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy is the only approach that uses a person’s own immune cells (or T-cells) to kill cancer cells. On October 18 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved CAR T-cell therapy for use in certain types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, two months earlier the agency gave the green light for its use in pediatric leukemia. This hope is that this breakthrough approach can also be used in solid tumors.

CAR T-Cell Therapy in NETs

With funding from NETRF, CAR T-cell therapy is being tested on neuroendocrine tumors (NETs). In 2014, NETRF funded Dr. June and colleagues XianXin Hua, MD, PhD, and David Metz, MD, at the University of Pennsylvania to investigate this novel approach. Since that time, NETRF has extended funding for the group with Dr. Hua taking the lead in laboratory experiments.

“NETRF recognized the value of this emerging technology and approached Dr. June to test it in NETs,” said Effie Tzameli, PhD, NETRF Director of Research. “The surface of a NET cell is different than normal cells, which may make it easier for a CAR to recognize and attack.”

Dr. Hua is testing the effectiveness of a new CAR (SSTR2) capable of recognizing and attacking NET cells.  In laboratory models, Dr. Hua and colleagues are studying whether the experimental NET CAR (SSTR2) is as safe and effective as the leukemia CAR (CD19) in killing cancer cells (and not healthy cells). These studies will continue until early 2018. If SSTR2 proves safe and effective in laboratory testing, it could be testing in humans in the early 2020s.

“The Foundation’s support got NETs in the CAR T-cell lab early with the foremost pioneers of this revolutionary therapy,” said Dr. Tzameli.  “This is how NETRF transforms the outlook of NETs by harnessing breakthrough opportunities that otherwise would have taken decades to trickle down to the most uncommon cancer types.”

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