July 2023

A groundbreaking cancer treatment known as gavo-cel has shown promise in initial tests, reducing the size of hard-to-treat tumors. The study's lead researcher, Dr. Raffit Hassan, along with his team, shared their findings on July 27, 2023, in the journal Nature Medicine.

The innovative treatment comes from TCR2 Therapeutics and falls under a category of cancer treatments known as adoptive cell therapies. In this approach, doctors take immune cells from the patient, modify them in a lab to attack specific cancer cells, and then put them back into the patient's body. Until now, this method has been most effective against blood cancers. However, the new therapy aims to tackle solid tumors as well.

The magic behind gavo-cel lies in a specially designed genetic component called a T cell receptor fusion construct (TRuC). This instructs the T cells to launch a powerful attack when they detect a protein called mesothelin, commonly found in many types of cancer. The design of TRuC makes the T cells more efficient at invading tumors and remaining active within the body.

The trial involved 32 patients suffering from advanced stages of mesothelioma, ovarian cancer, or bile duct cancer, who had previously undergone an average of five other treatments without success. Of those evaluated, 20% experienced a reduction in tumor size of 30% or more after receiving the new treatment. In 13% of patients, the tumors even shrank and stayed smaller for a significant period, with the longest-lasting effect enduring for a year.

“This is groundbreaking because it’s one of the few times adoptive cell therapies have shown real results in treating solid tumors,” said Dr. Hassan. “This shows us that TRuC T cells can be effective, even for patients who have already undergone multiple other treatments.”

However, the therapy does come with some risks. A significant 78% of trial participants experienced cytokine release syndrome, a side effect that, while manageable, can be potentially serious. As the next phase of the study unfolds, the research team is already testing a next-generation version called TC-510, designed to be even more effective at stimulating the immune system to fight cancer.

With this promising start, the research team is optimistic about the potential of T-cell therapies to treat a wide range of solid tumors. They also plan to test other similar approaches, expanding the range of options available for patients in the fight against cancer.

Source: NIH, National Cancer Institute

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