Accidental Discovery Raises Prospect Of ‘One-Size-Fits-All’ Cancer Treatment

CARDIFF, Wales (CBS Local) — Researchers have discovered a new cell in our immune system that they say could one day be used to create a “one size fits all” treatment for cancer. Scientists at Cardiff University in Wales say the T-cell and its receptor they discovered that can find and kill a wide range of cancerous cells in the lab including lung, skin, blood, colon, breast, bone, prostate, ovarian, kidney and cervical cancer cells.

The Cardiff team said they were analyzing blood samples for immune cells that may fight bugs when they made the discovery.

The findings, published Monday in Nature Immunology, have not been tested on humans, but researchers say they have “enormous potential.”

“It raises the prospect of a ‘one-size-fits-all’ cancer treatment; a single type of T-cell that could be capable of destroying many different types of cancers across the population,” said Professor Andrew Sewell, lead author on the study from Cardiff University’s School of Medicine. “Previously nobody believed this could be possible.”

Doctors have been using a treatment called CAR-T therapy, which involves extracting patients’ own immune cells and genetically modifying them. But CAR-T therapy only targets a limited number of cancers — including blood and bone marrow — and has not been successful for solid tumors, which make up the majority of cases.

T-cells generally find it difficult to differentiate tumor cells from healthy tissue because of their similar genetic make-up and usually end up attacking them both. But the new killer T-cell is able to distinguish between the two and only kill off the cancerous ones while leaving healthy tissue unscathed.

They hope to trial the new approach in patients towards the end of this year following further safety testing.