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T-cell films show promise as cancer-fighting therapy

T-cell film
A diagram shows how a thin film of patterned nitinol can be used to hold CAR T cells, with fibrin protein used as a binding agent. (Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center Graphic)

Researchers at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center have demonstrated the effectiveness of a new method for getting immune cells to fight solid tumors — by spreading them like jam onto ultra-thin sheets of metal mesh, and then laying the mesh onto the tumors.

So far, the technique for delivering genetically engineered T cells has been used only on mice — but the preclinical study published today in Nature Biomedical Engineering could help set the stage for the mesh to be used on humans as well.

“Cell therapies to fight cancer have had great success in blood cancers, but haven’t worked well with solid tumors,” senior study author Matthias Stephan, a faculty member in the Fred Hutch Clinical Research Division, explained in a news release.

“Our findings take a significant step toward making cell therapies effective against solid tumors by showing that a thin metal mesh loaded with T cells engineered to fight ovarian cancer cleared tumors in 70% of the treated mice,” he said.

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Allen Institute expands into immunology

Thomas Bumol in lab
Thomas Bumol, far left, executive director of the Allen Institute for Immunology, meets with his team prior to the institute’s launch. When fully staffed, the institute will have 60 to 70 employees. (Allen Institute Photo)

Billionaire philanthropist Paul Allen died two months ago, but before he passed away, he passed along a $125 million commitment to a new research frontier: the Allen Institute for Immunology.

The Allen Institute’s newest division, unveiled today at the institute’s Seattle headquarters, will focus on the human immune system and how it can be tweaked to fight cancer and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.

“None of this would have been possible without the extraordinary vision and generosity of our late founder, Paul Allen,” Allan Jones, president and CEO of the Allen Institute, said at the unveiling. “Paul challenged us to go after the really hard problems, to unravel the complexities of biology, and make a lasting impact on science that advances health.”

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