Supercharged natural killer cells may hold promise for cancer

A type of ‘supercharged’ immune cell could be mass-produced to help fight cancer.

The researchers behind the early-stage finding, from Imperial College London, say the development could mark the next generation of cutting-edge immunotherapy treatments, called CAR-T therapies.

These personalised treatments involve reprogramming immune cells to kill cancer.

NHS England announced on Friday it would be making the first ever CAR therapy licensed for the treatment of lymphoma available to patients on the Cancer Drugs Fund.

In the new study, funded by charity Bloodwise, the research team created a genetically engineered version of a cell called an invariant natural killer T-cell – CAR19-iNKT

Current CAR-T therapies are very expensive (around £300,000 per patient), and tend to be tailor-made for each patient. However, scientists behind the current study say their newer CAR-T therapy has the potential to be ten-fold cheaper, and can be mass-produced to enable one batch to be used on multiple patients.

The new research shows the CAR19-iNKT eliminated all cancer cells in 60 per cent of mice, with 90 per cent of animals surviving long-term.

The scientists behind the study, published in the journal Cancer Cell, are now considering human trials.

Professor Anastasios Karadimitris, senior author of


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