Healthy T cells have a fighting chance for cell therapy

Patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) who have a healthy amount of T cells prior to treatment (“early memory” T cells) responded positively to CAR T therapy, highlighting a powerful biomarker for successful therapies for that specific type of leukemia. 

A study from the Abramson Cancer Center, published in Nature Magazine, zeroed in on the exact cell subset and signature of 41 CLL patients' T cells that serve as indicators of how responsive they will be to therapy. A vital population of T cells, healthy enough to fight cancer cells, and that haven’t been affected by previous therapies, was found to be the biomarker by which researchers could successfully predict remission. 

A subsequent study among eight patients validated the findings with complete accuracy.

The study was led by senior author J. Joseph Melenhorst and first author Joseph A. Fraietta in the department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine and the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies. “The ability to select patients most likely to respond would have have tremendous clinical impact,” says Fraietta. “This therapy would be applied only to patients most likely to benefit, allowing patients unlikely to respond to pursue other options.”

By recognizing which healthy T cells are more effective at producing positive response to therapy, researchers are considering the potential for harnessing optimal cells for therapy, and expanding the research to a wider range of cancer trials. 

Read more at Penn Medicine News.