UVA Cancer Center discovers immunotherapy that could cure types of brain cancer

CAR T-cell immunotherapy has been successful in tackling blood cancers but not solid tumors. 

 Dividing cancer cell (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Dividing cancer cell
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

The UVA Cancer Center in Charlottesville, Virginia, discovered that CAR T-cell immunotherapy could treat two forms of brain cancer, according to new research discovered at the Cancer Center and Children's Hospital. The findings were published in the Journal of Immunotherapy for Cancer on Tuesday.

The research analyzes solid tumors, identifies their vulnerabilities, and also states that it's likely that the discovery could lead to treatments for other cancer tumors. Brain tumors analyzed in the research include glioblastoma and diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), which are types of tumors that the CAR T-cell immunotherapy could attack.

“Researchers have struggled for decades to find new therapies to treat these cancers," said Daniel “Trey” Lee, MD, a pioneer in the field of CAR T-cell immunotherapy and a UVA researcher. “This CAR T-cell therapy could be a game-changer for deadly brain tumors, much like a different CAR T-cell product shifted the paradigm for how we treat patients with relapsed leukemia and lymphoma.”

Immunotherapy's effectiveness

CAR T-cell immunotherapy has been successful in tackling blood cancers but not solid tumors. 

Two genetically engineered T Cells (light green) attacking a cancer cell in red. (credit: TILDA BARLIYA/ASTAR SHAMUL/CYRILLE COHEN)Two genetically engineered T Cells (light green) attacking a cancer cell in red. (credit: TILDA BARLIYA/ASTAR SHAMUL/CYRILLE COHEN)

Lee's research on this immunotherapy shows that it could shrink the tumors and improvement in its survival against DIPG when it was tested on lab mice.

"This CAR T-cell therapy could be a game-changer for deadly brain tumors, much like a different CAR T-cell product shifted the paradigm for how we treat patients with relapsed leukemia and lymphoma.”

Daniel Lee, MD

“We have already begun to see if we can use this same therapy to treat other tumors – like melanoma, breast cancer and the pediatric muscle tumor rhabdomyosarcoma – in the lab," Lee said. "My team in the lab is working incredibly hard to understand how we can bring new and safer CAR T-cell therapies to the citizens of Virginia and beyond."