New research boosts precision of T cell immunotherapies

Washington, D.C. – Kole Roybal is the 2018 grand prize winner of the inaugural Sartorius & Science Prize for Regenerative Medicine & Cell Therapy, for developing a new class of T cell immunotherapies that can be fine-tuned to better help the immune system recognize cancer and initiate precise therapeutic action against the disease. The findings, described in his prize-winning essay, “Refining cell therapy,” could eventually help overcome the major hurdles that currently hinder T cell immunotherapies from reaching their full potential, and offer patients more favorable treatment outcomes.

For most available T cell immunotherapies, T cells are engineered to recognize and eliminate tumors, but their activity is not specifically controlled, leading to toxicity and unwanted side effects in patients as a result of inflammation or in some cases suboptimal response to treatment. “If immune cell therapies for cancer or other diseases (like autoimmunity) are going to be safe and effective alternatives to more traditional medications, we must gain control over the activity of the cells to reduce risks of toxicity to the patient,” said Roybal.

To address such obstacles, Roybal, now an assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco and his colleague Leonardo Morsut turned to a signaling molecule on


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