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Wilmot Researchers Discover How to Steer Army of Immune Cells toward Cancer

Monday, April 17, 2023

Findings will Guide Improvements to CAR T-Cell Therapy for Breast, Lung, Brain Cancer

Immunotherapy, particularly CAR T-Cell treatment for cancer, is extending the lives of many patients. But sometimes the therapy randomly migrates to places it shouldn’t go, tucking into the lungs or other noncancerous tissue and causing toxic side effects. A Wilmot Cancer Institute team discovered the molecule responsible for guiding T cells toward tumors, setting the stage for scientists to improve upon the groundbreaking treatment.

The next step is to find a drug that can manipulate the key T-cell protein, ST3GAL1, said Minsoo Kim, Ph.D., corresponding author of an article in Nature Immunology that describes the research. If the investigation evolves as planned, such a drug could be added to the CAR T-cell regimen to ensure that T cells hit their targets, Kim said. 

His lab is collaborating with other Wilmot investigators to screen for drugs that will accomplish that feat, while also minimizing the risk of life-threatening side effects. 

“You can create very powerful treatments,” said Kim, co-leader of Wilmot’s Cancer Microenvironment research program at the University of Rochester, “but if they can’t get to their targets or they go to the wrong place, it does not provide the outcome you intended.”

Read More: Wilmot Researchers Discover How to Steer Army of Immune Cells toward Cancer