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Researchers Identify Molecular Target for Brain Cancer, Develop Immunotherapy Approach to Attack It

February 28, 2018
School of Medicine

An international team of researchers has genetically engineered cancer-killing immune cells that can hunt brain tumors displaying a new molecular target that is highly prevalent on brain cancer cells. Based on the findings from their early, preclinical studies, the researchers believe their approach holds promise for a new immunotherapy treatment for glioblastoma, which is the most lethal primary brain tumor.

In the journal Science Translational Medicine, researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, in collaboration with the Fondazione Istituto di Ricerca e Cura a Carattere Scientifico in Milan, Italy, report they modified immune cells to hunt brain tumors displaying a new molecular target called CSPG4, which they determined is highly prevalent on brain cancer cells. Their preclinical studies of immune cells engineered to recognize CSPG4 showed promise for controlling tumor growth in mouse and cell models for glioblastoma.

New treatments are sorely needed for the disease, as conventional treatments, which can include surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, typically produce a survival benefit of less than a year and a half. Only about one-third of patients with brain and other nervous system cancers live five years.

“Glioblastoma is a tumor of the brain that has a very low chance of being cured with current available therapies,” said Lineberger’s Gianpietro Dotti, a professor in the UNC School of Medicine Department of Microbiology and Immunology and the senior author of the study. “This is a potential new way to treat these tumors using the immune system.”

Read more on the School of Medicine website.

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