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New technique reinforces immune cells that seek and destroy cancer, says Stanford researcher
Date:4/26/2010

STANFORD, Calif. In what could be a shot in the arm for adoptive immunotherapy, new Stanford University research shows promise in enhancing and controlling the growth of T cells in living mice and in human cell cultures, potentially overcoming one of the therapy's drawbacks.

The engineers altered the T cells using synthetic biology, an emerging field in which researchers can build new functions into cells by integrating pre-designed genetic components. Adoptive immunotherapy is an experimental technique meant to boost the immune response to a number of diseases, most notably some cancers.

"This is an integration of a cell-based therapy application with new synthetic biology tools that have come up from foundational research," said Christina Smolke, PhD, assistant professor of bioengineering. "The unique aspect is that we're taking new tools for controlling cell function and gene expression, and looking at them in the context of a specific and clinically relevant system."

The research will be published online April 26 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Smolke is the senior author of the paper and the advisor of the lead author, California Institute of Technology chemical engineering graduate student Yvonne Chen. Chen has worked with Smolke since 2006 and became a visiting researcher at Stanford in 2009 when Smolke left Caltech for Stanford.

Immune boost

Adoptive immunotherapy is targeted to situations when the immune system fails to detect a disease. The adoptive immunotherapy strategy is to harvest T cells from the patient, engineer them to spot the disease and then send them back in, like police detectives with a reliable tip. A major drawback, however, has been that the T cells still need to call for back-up forces from a variety of other cell types in the body, but they can't. They die out quickly without doing enough good.

The new approach is to further engineer the T cells to
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Contact: David Orenstein
davidjo@stanford.edu
650-736-2245
Stanford University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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