Immune cells called T cells can be powerful weapons in the fight against leukemia and many other tumors because of their ability to recognize and eradicate foreign cells. But for transplant patients, the inability of T cells to distinguish between healthy host tissue and cancerous cells can lead to a serious side effect called graft-versus-host disease.
With support from the Masons through the Cancer Experimental Therapeutics Initiative, Mark Osborn, Ph.D., a pediatrics faculty member at the U, is working to overcome this significant obstacle.
Osborn’s goal is to engineer T cells that are better able to direct their potent effects toward tumor cells while minimizing normal tissue damage. His laboratory is using custom “molecular scalpels” to leave T cells unable to recognize healthy tissue, and combining the modified T cells with anti-tumor molecules called chimeric antigen receptors.
This process transforms T cells into potent “search and destroy” agents that target tumors but do not harm normal organs and tissues. Osborn’s lab is currently streamlining the process for moving this promising therapy from bench to bedside and recently received a significant new grant that will accelerate this work.
Learn more about graft-versus-host disease from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.