Is it possible to create targeted and personalised immunotherapies that fight cancer at the molecular level?
Prescient Therapeutics, a clinical-stage oncology biotech company based in South Melbourne, is partnering with La Trobe University and the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute to find out.
“Our partnership with Prescient Therapeutics is helping to develop next-generation, personalised immunotherapies,” says Associate Professor David Greening from the Baker Institute.
Immunotherapy is a type of immune-boosting cancer treatment that uses substances made in the body, or a laboratory, to find and destroy cancer cells.
“We’re progressing something called chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy. It involves collecting T cells from people’s blood and re-engineering them to carry structures on their surface which make the treatment more targeted and bespoke,” Associate Professor Greening says.
“These structures essentially train the T-cells to target and attack cancers which the body may otherwise have missed.”
CAR-T therapy has been a revolutionary new development in cancer research due to its success in clinical testing on certain cancer types, such as blood cancers.
Despite its promise, there is still much more to learn about the therapy.
Among the challenges that Professor Greening and the Prescient Therapeutics team are seeking to address are its accuracy and its impact on healthy cells.
“Our collaboration has seen the Baker Institute and La Trobe provide advances in systems and technologies that are allowing a deeper molecular analysis of T-cell behaviour,” Associate Professor Greening says.
“The fact that we can now sample the proteins that make up these T-cells, calculate their exact molecular weight, and reliably engineer changes in them means that we can better address the major challenges of accuracy, toxicity and resistance.”
Prescient Therapeutics’ Senior VP for Scientific Affairs, Associate Professor Rebecca Lim, believes that the potential impact of this is significant.
“Ultimately, this work will allow the design of more effective CAR-T therapies,” says Associate Professor Lim. “This has potentially profound implications for personalised cancer treatment.”
Director of Research and Development at Prescient Therapeutics, Luis F Malaver-Ortega, agrees.
“Partnerships like this have the power to really expedite the transition from innovation to practical clinical applications.”