Pancreatic cancer is one of the rarest types of cancer, but it is still one of the most dangerous. And so cause a tumor in the pancreas It is considered particularly insidious and is responsible for many deaths. Researchers at the Ludwig Maximilian University Clinic have discovered a new way to combat this type of cancer. Preparations for clinical studies are already underway, which means that new treatment strategies may be available within a few years.
Malignant and deadly cancer
The cancer information service of the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) on its website reports about 19,000 people in Germany annually. for pancreatic cancer (Pancreas cancer). Symptoms rarely occur in the early stages of the disease, which is why most sufferers receive a diagnosis at an advanced stage. However, treatment depends on the spread of the tumor and the health status of the patient, which makes early detection and an effective treatment strategy all the more important.
Extensive research achieves initial success
The current announcement from the LMU Clinic also confirms that pancreatic tumors are among the deadliest and most dangerous. About five years after diagnosis, only ten percent of patients are still alive – despite extensive medical efforts during treatment. Therefore, special attention will be paid to research on new treatment options placed. The team led by Professor Sebastian Kobold of the Department of Clinical Pharmacology at the LMU Hospital in Munich has achieved initial success, and found a way to combat pancreatic tumors effectively, at least in the laboratory.
Immune therapies are like hot iron in a fire
In the search for new ways to more efficiently treat pancreatic tumors, researchers in particular on the body’s own antibodies Focus: “Immunotherapy is treated like hot iron in the fire and we know from preclinical work that T cells in the immune system can also be very effective in fighting tumors,” stresses Kobold. The focus is on ‘can’ – because to be effective, these defensive cells must first reach the area of the tumor.
But that’s exactly where the problem lies: On the one hand, pancreatic cancer cells are surrounded by a hard-to-penetrate stroma, and on the other hand, these cells send out a messenger substance called CXCL16. This attracts a group of immune cells that are supposed to prevent an attack against the cancer rather than launch it. However, the group of T cells that can fight tumors lack receptors that can respond to CXCL16 signaling with an attack.
Gene editing as a means to an end
Then the research team came up with a solution to this problem in genetically modifying T cells so that they are able to produce the missing receptor. So-called CAR-T cells, which stands for “chimeric antigen receptor in T cells”, were used for this purpose. The name describes the genetic engineering changes in which T cells turn out to be tumor killers. With the help of genetic engineering, a kind of antenna is then attached to the surface of these T cells, which recognize a very special molecule on the surface of the cancer cells according to the lock-and-key principle. I finally felt modified T cells Cancer cells in the pancreas, attach to them and destroy them in the last step.
Prolonged preparation delays preparation for practical application by years
So far, the new process has shown resounding successes: “In all laboratory tests, CAR-T cells processed in this way have found their target and attacked the cancerous cells of pancreatic tumors,” summarizes Kobold. Motivated by the results, researchers are now beginning to prepare for extended clinical trials. First, however, a production process must be found that complies with all the requirements of the authorities. At the same time, preparations are being made for clinical studies that would make its use in humans possible in the first place: “In a few years we will know if our hopes for a new treatment for pancreatic tumors will come true,” says Kobold with certainty.