Killer T cells offer hope for beating cancer
Oncologists in Turkey are closely monitoring clinical trials of a groundbreaking study by scientists which could lead to a cure for cancer.
Researchers at U.K.-based Cardiff University said last week they have discovered a new type of T cell.
T cells are a type of white blood cell involved in the function of a person's immune system. When these cells are activated by coming into contact with defective or foreign cells in the body, they attack them, helping to fight off infection and disease.
According to a Cardiff University news release, researchers discovered that a new T cell receptor (TCR) is able to recognize most cancer types in humans and kills them while ignoring healthy cells.
So far, the Chimeric Antigen Receptor T (CAR-T) cell is personalized for certain types of cancer, and for most, it has not been successful, especially for solid tumors.
But the latest research discovered that the TCR recognizes a molecule that exists on the surface of various cancer cells and is able to distinguish between cancerous and healthy ones.
Cardiff University researchers published the results of the study in the monthly Nature Immunology.
The research has not been tested in patients, but showed positive results in clinical tests.
Although it is in the preclinical step, experts told Anadolu Agency it is a hopeful development.
Dr. Ahmet Bilici, a medical oncologist and professor at Medipol Mega University Hospital in the Turkish metropolis Istanbul, said doctors are waiting for hopeful results of tests on humans.
"Specialized CAR-T has shown effective treatment especially on hematologic tumors, but the most important deficiency was its ineffectiveness on solid tumors such as lung, breast and colon cancer types," said Bilici.
"Cardiff University researchers found a new type of T-cell receptor which they called MR1. This receptor may treat most types of cancer in a different way," he said, adding that the latest research is likely to direct the cancer treatment.
Dr. Evren Özdemir, also a medical oncologist and professor at Medicana International Hospital in the Turkish capital Ankara, said obtaining the results of this research is a very important step, because there is potential to treat most tumors.
But Özdemir added that this is not a standard treatment yet and the final results should be awaited.
"Researchers expect to apply this treatment on the human body at the end of this year. After observing this new treatment on the human body, it may be possible in one or two years to see whether it is reliable and effective," said Özdemir.
Dr. Alper Can, a medical oncologist and an associate professor at Istinye University Medical Park Gaziosmanpaşa Hospital in Istanbul, said this study offers great hope for cancer patients.
The question of how these T-lymphocytes will work in humans is a matter of curiosity, Can said.
The new treatment involves taking immune cells [T-lymphocytes] from the patient, which are then modified externally, and returned to the patient's blood to fight the cancer cells.
He added that this will be effective indiscriminately with all solid tumors.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cancer is universally the second leading cause of death. WHO data shows that approximately 9.6 million people died due to cancer in 2018. Globally, about one in every six deaths results from cancer.
Using tobacco is one of the most important risk factors for cancer, leading to around 22% of cancer deaths.