Scientists at St. Jude are studying chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells. These T cells are genetically engineered to target a specific protein. CAR T-cell therapy has been successful for treating some leukemias. However, there have been limitations in using them against acute myelogenous leukemia (AML).
Researchers have developed a promising CAR T cell for AML. This CAR T cell targets a protein called GRP78. GRP78 is found on the surface of cancer cells, but not on normal bone marrow cells.
In addition to being leukemia-specific, the GRP78 CAR T cell overcomes other challenges. For example, the scientists make the CAR T cell using a drug called dasatinib. This drug helps the T cells stay present and attack the cancer for longer.
“GRP78 is a unique target for CAR T-cell therapy,” said Paulina Velasquez, M.D., St. Jude Department of Bone Marrow Transplantation and Cellular Therapy. “It has the advantage of only being on the surface of cancer cells, so it is less likely to have a toxic effect.”
More research is needed before the therapy is ready for clinical trials.
A paper on this work was published in Nature Communications.