A study recently released in Nature Communications has demonstrated improvement in CAR-T therapy for blood cancer when it’s paired with an immune-boosting protein. Researchers based the study on naturally produced protein, but improved effectiveness through genetic modification.

CAR-T Therapy Used for Treating Blood Cancer

CAR-T therapy is one of the most established treatments for certain blood cancers, but the treatment is far from perfect or always sufficiently effective. While it’s among the best treatments for these dangerous cancers, there still is significant room for improvement.

Researchers at large have been exploring potential ways to further increase CAR-T therapy’s effectiveness. This particular study is one of the most promising recent ones to be published.

Improving CAR-T Therapy With Immune-Boosing Protein

Improving therapy is what the researchers behind this study sought to do, and they drew inspiration from a naturally occurring protein. The protein they focused on was interleukin 7 (IL-7).

IL-7 is a naturally occurring protein that’s generated by the body. It has overall immune boosting effects, largely by increasing T cell production. In other words, the body uses IL-7 to create more T cells when fighting infection. Researchers hypothesized that CAR-T therapy would more effectively treat cancers if it were paired with IL-7.

Specifically, researchers thought that IL-7 might have exponential effects if paired with a genetically modified T-cell that has a longer duration than standard T cells. Standard T cells that the body produces disappear quickly. The modified T cells can circulate through the bloodstream for weeks, which could have a compounding effect if IL-7 proved useful.

The research was conducted on mice who had cancerous tumors, and the mice were grouped into three categories:

  • Control mice that did not receive any active therapy, either CAR-T therapy or IL-7
  • Mice that received genetically modified T cells without IL-7
  • Mice that received genetically modified T cells paired with IL-7

Results Showed Substantial Improvement

The results showed a substantial improvement in the third group that received modified T cells and IL-7.

Mice that received CAR-T cell therapy but no IL-7 protein survived approximately one month longer than the control group. The tumor was temporarily controlled, shrinking for a brief time. The tumors in these mice returned around week 3, however, and the tumors appeared essentially the same as the control group’s tumors by week 4.

Mice that received CAR-T cell therapy and IL-7 protein survived almost six times longer than the CAR-T only group, not to mention the added life span was even greater if compared with the control group. All mice who received the joint treatment were still alive at 175 days. Their tumors were also dramatically reduced in size, and the reduction lasted throughout the experiment. Tumors in many of the mice were virtually undetectable after just over a month.

Promising for Clinical Treatment

The researchers noted that their study was promising, but more studies would be needed to determine exactly when and how much IL-7 protein should be given. These results are highly promising for patients who need CAR-T therapy because of blood cancer, though.