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Immune Cells Engineered to Battle Cancer Can Be Turned “On” or “Off”

By September 14, 2022No Comments

The billions of immune cells that help protect us from diseases do amazing things, but sometimes they need a little boost. For decades, scientists have been trying to figure out ways to engineer living immune cells to better combat aggressive diseases, like cancer.

One big, relatively recent advancement in the fight against cancer is CAR T-cell therapy, a treatment that involves modifying immune cells called T cells, microscopic powerhouses that take on infections. Scientists have figured out a way to remove T cells from a person’s blood, insert a special kind of gene called a receptor, which binds to cancer cells, and transfer the engineered T cells back to the patient. This type of receptor—a chimeric antigen receptor, or CAR—is tailored to match the specific cancer being targeted and has been found to be effective for treating certain types of cancer, especially leukemia. Once CAR-T cells reenter the bloodstream, they start to replicate and begin their fight.