Universal cancer therapy: Newly discovered killer T cells kill almost all cancer cells

Universal cancer therapy: Newly discovered killer T cells kill almost all cancer cells

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Newly discovered T cell gives hope for universal cancer therapy

"So far, no one believed that this could be possible," says Professor Andrew Sewell proudly of the discovery of a new type of killer T cell that recognizes and kills most human cancers, but ignores healthy cells. With the help of the new immune cell, the researchers want to develop a general cancer therapy that will help against all types of cancer.

A research team from the Cardiff University School of Medicin in Wales, England discovered a new immune cell that is able to recognize and kill most cancer cells. Using a new method that removes, modifies and returns the immune cells of those affected, the researchers want to develop a universal therapy for cancer. The research results were recently presented in the renowned journal "Nature Immunology".

Cancer immunotherapy has so far been individual

As the research team reports, the most widespread immunotherapy for cancer is the so-called CAR-T cell therapy, which has to be individually tailored to all concerned. In addition, it targets only a few types of cancer and is usually unsuccessful in solid tumors.

New T cells should enable universal treatment

The researchers have now discovered T cells that are equipped with a previously unknown type of T cell receptor (TCR). This receptor enables the immune cells to recognize and kill most human cancers. At the same time, he ignores healthy cells.

How does the new receptor work?

According to the current study, this TCR specializes in a molecule that is on the surface of a large number of cancer cells and in many normal body cells. Thanks to the receptor, the T cell is able to distinguish healthy and cancerous cells and only kills the tumor cells.

Better than normal T cells

Conventional T cells scan the surface of other cells to find abnormalities. For example, they discover cancer cells based on abnormal proteins. However, they ignore normal proteins. According to the research team, the TCR is the first known receptor that can make a distinction between healthy and cancerous cells even without significant abnormalities.

A look inside the cell

The scanning system of killer cells recognizes the smallest parts of cellular proteins that are bound to molecules of the cell surface in numerous body cells. These proteins are called human leukocyte antigen (HLA). The killer T cells can take a look inside the cell via HLA and see whether it is healthy or harmful.

HLA is different for every person

However, the HLA varies widely between individuals, which has prevented scientists from using the HLA as a target for a new therapy. However, the newly discovered receptor targets a single HLA-like molecule called MR1. According to the researchers, in contrast to HLA, MR1 does not vary in the human population, which makes the molecule an extremely attractive target for new immunotherapies.

Initial laboratory tests delivered terrific results

In initial trials, T cells equipped with the new TCR killed all of the lung, skin, blood, colon, breast, bone, prostate, ovarian, kidney and cervical cancer cells in the laboratory healthy cells were ignored.

Is immunotherapy breakthrough imminent?

"We hope that this new TCR will open up another way for us to fight and destroy a wide range of cancers in everyone," said Professor Andrew Sewell, lead author of the study. Current immunotherapies could only be used in a minority of cancers.

“Targeting cancer with MR1-restricted T cells is an exciting new frontier - it opens up the prospect of a universal cancer treatment solution - a single type of T cell that could be able to treat many different types of cancer throughout To destroy the population, ”summarizes the professor.

Tests on people in the starting blocks

The new method will be tested on humans towards the end of the year. According to Professor Sewell, it must first be ensured that the killer T cells modified with the new TCR only recognize and attack cancer cells.

Maybe available in a few years

"If these tests are successful, I hope that this new treatment can be used on patients in a few years," said Sewell. Until then, there are still a few hurdles to be overcome.

"This new type of T-cell therapy has enormous potential to overcome the current limitations of CAR-T," adds Professor Oliver Ottmann, Head of Hematology at Cardiff University.

A big step for cancer immunotherapy

"If this new insight persists, it will lay the foundation for 'universal' T-cell medicine and mitigate the enormous costs associated with identifying, generating and manufacturing personalized T-cells," adds Professor Awen Gallimore added an expert from the Department of Infection, Immunity and Cancer Immunology at Cardiff University. "This is really exciting and possibly a big step forward for the accessibility of cancer immunotherapy." (vb)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek


  • Andrew K. Sewell, Michael D. Crowther, Garry Dolton, et al .: Genome-wide CRISPR – Cas9 screening reveals ubiquitous T cell cancer targeting via the monomorphic MHC class I-related protein MR1, Nature Immunology, 2020,

Video: Killer T-Cell Discovery Could Mean Universal Cancer Treatment (July 2022).


  1. Faedal

    Yes ... I guess ... the simpler the better ... everything ingenious is simple.

  2. Ladon

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  3. Charleson

    the Relevant point of view, attractive

  4. Tevis

    Post removed

  5. Oxnaleah

    yeah !!!! no words

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