Bioscientists at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center have engineered biodegradable particles that reprogram key immune-system cells inside the body to kill cancer.
These nanoparticles target T cells that are among the immune system’s front-line defenders against viruses and other invaders. The particles were loaded with specific genes that turned T cells into specialized leukemia fighters. The particles also were coated with molecules that made them stick to T cells, ensuring the T cells would absorb the transported genes.
In a test on mice, the customized nanoparticles performed as well as conventional alternatives. The nanoparticles began showing results within 48 hours and continued working for several weeks.
That shaves precious time off the current approach of extracting T cells from a patient and genetically re-engineering them in special labs. That can take 10 days or more.
Human clinical trials are years away. Meanwhile, the team is planning experiments that will customize particles to attack other forms of cancer.