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Making CAR-T therapy available to more people

CAR-T cell therapy is an exciting new therapy but can currently only be used for some cancer. Professor Waseem Qasim wants to create a more universal CAR-T cell therapy so more people can benefit from this treatment.

The challenge

CAR-T is a very exciting therapy because it has the potential to offer long-term survival and possibly a cure for people who only have a few months to live. However, CAR-T therapy will only work for some types of blood cancer, and it is very expensive because it has to be tailored to the individual.
CAR-T therapy works by taking a type of white blood cell called a T-cell from the person with cancer whose T cells are healthy, and reprogramming them in the lab, so they are better at finding and killing cancer cells. These modified T-cells are now called ‘CAR-T cells’, which are then given back to the patient where they hunt down and kill the cancer cells. However, this type of therapy is not effective against cancers that affect T-cells, because when CAR-T cells are armed against cancerous T-cells, they destroy each other.

The project

Professor Waseem Qasim wants to use the latest technology to ‘edit' the DNA carried by T-cells, to allow CAR-T cells to to attack cancerous T-cells. This work could mean that CAR-T therapy becomes available to people with blood cancers that affect T-cells. These CAR-T cells will also be ‘universal’, meaning that the treatment can be given to many different people, rather than having to tailor it to each person.

The future

If successful, this research could lead to a new treatment for blood cancers that arise from T-cells. And because it will be universal, it could also make CAR-T therapy much cheaper to produce than it currently is, meaning that CAR-T could become much more widely available.