Researchers have generated immunotherapy in the laboratory using nonimmune cells. If the findings can be translated into treatment, it may reduce some of the immune-related adverse events that patients experience with today’s cancer immunotherapy treatments. The study was reported in Nature Chemical Biology.

Instead of using a patient’s own immune cells as with immunotherapies such as CAR T-cell therapy, the researchers created a cancer-detecting sensor in HEK-293T cells (derived from human embryonic kidney cells) as well as human mesenchymal stem cells. The sensor targets tumor cells, and in the presence of a prodrug, the immunotherapy cells self-destruct, killing the nearby tumor cells as well.

The treatment has been studied with breast cancer cells in vitro, but the researchers say that the cells can be manipulated to target other cancers as well. The next steps would be to test the treatment in rodent models and then preclinical and clinical trials.

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