Andalusian Researchers Turn To Genetic Engineering As An Alternative To Treat Leukemias

Researchers from the Andalusian public health have launched a project that aims to create a compound capable of attacking cancer cells in the body in patients with refractory leukemias and lymphomas, that is, they do not respond to any treatment currently being administered. .

The study starts from the behavior of CAR-T cells in this specific type of tumors. CAR-T are cells that result from adding a chimeric receptor (CAR) to blood cells involved in defense against infectious agents and cancer, T cells. The knowledge generated in this field highlights that they are capable of attacking cancer cells in leukemias and lymphomas, opening a therapeutic pathway to these tumors.

However, and as the researchers explain in a statement, “on the one hand, CAR-T are obtained from the patient’s own cells and in many cases they are cells damaged by the applied treatments and do not have sufficient quality; in addition, Obtaining them is a slow process, between 3 and 6 weeks; on the other hand, the CAR-T are diminished by the tumor environment “.

Faced with this scenario, scientists from the Gene and Cell Therapy Area, from the Genyo center of Granada, led by researcher Karim Benabdellah; health professionals from the Hematology Service of the Reina Sofía-IMIBIC University Hospital in Córdoba, with Concha Herrera in charge; supported by Juan Antonio Marchal, professor at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Granada; have launched a research project in order to obtain small particles (exosomes) with antitumor capacity from CAR-T cells (EXO-CAR-T) from healthy donors.

According to Benabdellah, “the objective is to use exosomes, small particles with antitumor capacity secreted by CAR-T cells obtained from healthy donors as a complement or substitute for conventional CAR-T”. The main advantage lies in the fact that “by coming from healthy donors , we ensure continuous production and, therefore, immediate availability for all patients who need it,” he says.

In short, it is “to use a universal compound obtained from T cells from healthy donors, so that they are immediately available for administration as treatment to patients”. In addition, and also thanks to genomic editing, “it is possible to treat them so that they are not rejected by the patient who receives them, thus avoiding graft-versus-host disease.”

Patients benefited
This project could potentially benefit patients with leukemias or lymphomas who do not respond to chemotherapy (or who have not responded adequately to conventional treatments), and who have a quantity and quality of cells much lower than the minimum necessary for their manipulation. It could also benefit patients with solid tumors such as breast, colon, pancreas and lung tumors in the future.

The work is currently open to citizen collaboration on the Precipita platform, an initiative of the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology, of the Ministry of Science and Innovation, which allows to make Spanish research projects known to society in which you can actively participate.

This project is part of the line of research carried out by the Genyo Cell and Gene Therapy group for some years. For its development, it has national and regional funding from the Andalusian Regional Government’s Health and Family Council. And it is that the development of therapies based on CAR-T stands as one of the most successful options for the treatment of refractory leukemias and lymphomas and research in this field has the support of the Andalusian Government. It also has the support of private initiative, specifically the companies Proquinorte, SET and Genotipia.

Researchers Kristina Pavlovic and Marina Cortijo-Gutierrez, from the Benabdellah group, participate actively in this study and it is carried out by a dozen professionals: a multidisciplinary team of health professionals (experts in oncohematology, immunology and pharmacy) and basic researchers (experts in immunology and cell and gene therapy), with an extensive career in translational biomedical research.

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