CAR T cell therapy may eliminate tumor cells missed by surgery

The results of a study led by Penn Medicine’s Carl June greenlights preclinical trials for the application of CAR T therapy in gel form to surgical wounds following partial tumor removal to eliminate residual tumor cells.

CAR T cell therapy, an approach which reprograms patients’ own immune cells to attack their blood cancers, may enhance the effectiveness of surgery for solid tumors, according to a preclinical study from researchers in the Perelman School of Medicine.

Carl June.
Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy Carl June.

In the study, published in Science Advances, the researchers applied a special gel containing human CAR T cells to surgical wounds in an animal model following partial tumor removal. They found that in almost all cases, the CAR T cells apparently eliminated the residual tumor cells.

Surgery can be curative when a solid tumor cancer has not spread. However, where a tumor ends and healthy tissue begins is often very difficult for surgeons to discern. For many cancer types, post-surgical recurrence due to remaining microscopic tumor cells is common. One possible approach to this problem is to apply an anti-tumor treatment to the remaining tissue margins immediately after tumor removal, to kill any residual tumor cells. In the study, Penn researchers tested that approach using CAR T cells.

“As we continue to advance CAR T cell therapy forward, finding applications for use in solid tumors is a major goal,” says study senior author Carl June, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy and director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies at Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center. “Based on the promising results in this study, our colleagues have planned a clinical trial in patients with locally advanced breast cancer.”

This story is by Meagan Raeke. Read more at Penn Medicine News.