Rare T Cells Fight Cancer

A new approach to immunotherapy finds that the immune-cell clonotypes that come to the rescue start out at very low frequencies.

Jef Akst
Jef Akst

Jef Akst is managing editor of The Scientist, where she started as an intern in 2009 after receiving a master’s degree from Indiana University in April 2009 studying the mating behavior of seahorses.

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May 1, 2017

T-CELL TARGET: Metastatic melanoma, pictured here, has been in the sights of immunotherapy developers. © ISTOCK.COM/BEHOLDINGEYE

The paper
A.G. Chapuis et al., “Tracking the fate and origin of clinically relevant adoptively transferred CD8+ T cells in vivo,” Sci Immunol, 2:eaal2568, 2017.

T-cell therapy
One approach used in cancer immunotherapy is to extract T cells from a patient’s blood, select a single clonotype that binds to a tumor antigen, expand it in culture, and reintroduce the cells to the body. Reaching therapeutic levels, however, might take several months, sometimes too late to save the patient.

The solution
Rather than generating a therapeutic population of lymphocytes from a single T cell, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center immuno-oncologist Aude Chapuis and her colleagues decided to infuse patients with a polyclonal group of cells stimulated by a particular tumor antigen. “Instead of picking one cell and growing it out, we’re taking a lot of...

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