Invariant natural killer T cells offer potential as off-the-shelf immunotherapy – removing the current need to tailor to each individual
In addition to surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, there are now immunotherapies available for treating certain cancers. Some of the most promising involve the isolation, reprogramming and reintroduction of a patient’s own immune cells. Because this is a costly and lengthy procedure, researchers are also attempting to develop an off-the-shelf version using a type of cell that can be transplanted into anyone. Invariant natural killer T (INKT) cells fit the bill, because unlike other immune cells, they don't attack recipient tissues when transplanted into patients – a condition called graft-versus-host disease. These cells are effective at killing human cancers in mice – one is shown, blue, attacking a cancer cell, purple – and can be grown and engineered in culture to make thousands of doses from one donor blood sample. With such a promising preclinical start, the next step is to develop INKT technology for safe use in humans.
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