La Jolla Institute for Immunology (LJI) scientists have uncovered a critical T-cell in children’s brains that could help fight pediatric brain tumors. The research team published a study in the journal “Nature Cancer” outlining how the cancer-killing T cells may already be fighting cancer cells in a small portion of pediatric brain cancer patients.
According to study colead, UC San Diego assistant professor and LJI clinical associate Anusha Preethi Ganesan, MD, says pediatric patients may benefit the most from immunotherapy.
Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that leverages a patient’s immune system to kill cancer cells. It is a relatively new cancer therapy that has proven to be quite effective in the percentage of patients who respond to it. Instead of killing the tumor by itself, this treatment boosts the immune system’s ability to seek and destroy cancerous cells, granting your immune system a moderate antitumor ability even after the treatment is over.
For immunotherapy to be effective, a patient’s T cells need to spot the mutations present in mutated cancer cells. Immune checkpoint blockade immunotherapy is especially effective at enabling T cells to find and destroy cancer cells in many adult cancers. However, the treatment isn’t as effective in pediatric cancer patients.
With most clinical trials on pediatric cancer immunotherapies delivering inconsistent results, regulators still haven’t approved a single immunotherapy for pediatric patients. This has left many scientists wondering whether T cells can detect brain tumors in children.
Ganesan, who also serves at Rady Children’s Hospital as a pediatric oncologist, collected brain tumor samples from nearly 40 children from the hospital. He and his team analyzed the tumor samples for T cells and found that T cell levels within the tumors varied significantly between the patients.
The research team posits that this variation may be responsible for the inconsistent results seen in several pediatric immunotherapy trials. Aditi Upadhye, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher at La Jolla Institute for Immunology and study cofirst author, said it was encouraging to discover T cells in pediatric tumors, even if they occurred in a small number of patients.
The researchers leveraged genetic sequencing tools to analyze more than 41,000 T cells they found in pediatric gene tumors and used gene expression analysis to determine whether the cells could kill brain tumors. They found that a small portion of the patients had high T cell levels that could potentially kill cancer cells in the brain by responding to markers called neoantigens.
The research team is now working to translate the findings with the aim of understanding which neoantigens trigger the most potent T cell responses and potentially help physicians identify pediatric patients who could benefit from immunotherapies such as immune checkpoint blockade.
Many other companies such as Scinai Immunotherapeutics Ltd. (NASDAQ: SCNI) are also working to bring to market various immunotherapies to address the unmet clinical needs of cancer patients. The success of these efforts could increase the pool of patients who benefit from these treatments.
NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to Scinai Immunotherapeutics Ltd. (NASDAQ: SCNI) are available in the company’s newsroom at https://ibn.fm/SCNI
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