Upgrading the immune system to fight cancer

IMAGE: SUPRA CAR-T offers several advantages over existing CAR-T therapy. view more 

Credit: Cell

There have been few cancer treatments with such a promising future as using the patient’s own immune system. Known as chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy, or CAR-T, this treatment uses re-engineered killer T-cells to attack cancer cells, but it also causes potentially deadly side effects. Now, research led by Assistant Professor Wilson Wong (BME) is opening doors to making such therapy safer and more effective.

The research – co-authored by graduate student Jang Hwan Cho and Professor Jim Collins of MIT – is published in the journal Cell. Wong sees the current CAR-T system as having three major flaws: target specificity; strength of response; and lack of adaptive capability, which is essentially the issue of relapse. “Our system has the ability to address those three problems,” notes Wong.

Traditional CAR-T is a treatment engineered for one specific patient to treat one specific type of cancer cell. The new refined system – called split, universal and programmable (SUPRA) CAR-T – can be continuously altered to target different types of cancer cells, turned on and off, and overall offers a significantly more finely tuned treatment than the


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