"We want to make this promising therapeutic procedure safer, more efficient and also more cost-effective."
T cells are a natural part of the immune system. Their ability to specifically recognize and destroy altered cells is used by doctors and scientists for immunotherapeutic cancer therapies. One such immunotherapy uses genetically modified T cells that are able to detect and destroy human cancer cells. To produce these so-called CAR (Chimeric Antigen Receptors) T cells, researchers use established methods of gene therapy. Among other things, this uses modified viruses - called viral vectors - to introduce genes into a human cell. CAR-T cells have already been successfully used to treat certain forms of leukemia and lymphoma. However, some of the methods used to date have been associated with serious side effects. Patrick Schmidt and Richard Harbottle of the NCT Heidelberg and DKFZ are therefore working to further develop the method for CAR-T cell production. "We want to make this promising therapeutic procedure safer, more efficient and also more cost-effective," Harbottle reports. The new vector system the scientists are currently exploring does not use viral components and does not integrate gene sequences into the cell's genome. The new method is being further developed and tested in preclinical tumor models with NCT donations.