New Vaccine Strategy Boosts T-Cell Therapy


A promising new way to treat some types of cancer is to program the patient’s own T cells to destroy the cancerous cells. This approach, termed CAR-T cell therapy, is now used to combat some types of leukemia, but so far it has not worked well against solid tumors such as lung or breast tumors.

MIT researchers have now devised a way to super-charge this therapy so that it could be used as a weapon against nearly any type of cancer. The research team developed a vaccine that dramatically boosts the antitumor T cell population and allows the cells to vigorously invade solid tumors.

In a study of mice, the researchers found that they could completely eliminate solid tumors in 60 percent of the animals that were given T-cell therapy along with the booster vaccination. Engineered T cells on their own had almost no effect.

“By adding the vaccine, a CAR-T cell treatment which had no impact on survival can be amplified to give a complete response in more than half of the animals,” says Darrell Irvine, who is the Underwood-Prescott Professor with appointments in Biological Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering, an associate director of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, a member of the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT, and Harvard, and the senior author of the study.

Read more at: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MIT engineers have devised a way to stimulate T cells (shown in red) to attack tumors by activating them with a vaccine that accumulates in the lymph nodes. B cells in the lymph nodes are labeled in blue. (Photo Credit: Leyuan Ma and Jason Chang)