ImmunoCellular Therapeutics, a clinical-stage company developing immune-based therapies for several cancers, recently announced it has established a research partnership with Dr. Cassian Yee, of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, to investigate and develop antigen-specific killer T cells to target and kill tumor cells.
Dr. Yee is an expert in immunobiology, particularly in identifying and isolating cytotoxic T cells, a group of specialized immune cells that can specifically kill tumors and is a professor in the Department of Melanoma Medical Oncology, Division of Cancer Medicine, a professor in the Department of Immunology, Division of Cancer Medicine, and Director of the Solid Tumor Cell Therapy, Center for Cancer Immunology Research, at MD Anderson.
Under the new research partnership, Dr. Yee will identify this particular subset of T cells cells when they target and bind (strongly) to tumor cells expressing an undisclosed target antigen. The specific T cell receptors (TCRs) will then be identified by DNA sequencing analysis, after which the coding DNA sequences will be introduced into stem cells, with the goal of creating preclinical therapeutic candidates for further research.
Researchers want to establish a clinical program with engineered T cells by isolating hematopoietic stem cells from a patient that can then be re-engineered to express the tumor-specific TCR and, once injected back into the patient, induce the expansion of a population of antigen-specific killer T cells that attack tumor cells.
Steven Swanson, PhD, ImmunoCellular Therapeutics Senior Vice President, Research, said in a press release: “The work on which Dr. Yee and ImmunoCellular are collaborating is both exciting in what it represents for immuno-oncology, and potentially groundbreaking, as it has not previously been accomplished on a large scale. The identification of novel TCR sequences for application in stem cells has the potential to launch this program toward clinical testing. We are privileged to be working with an immune-oncologist of Dr. Yee’s stature, and believe that this work has the potential to position our Stem-to-T-cell program as one of the most promising in the industry.”
Andrew Gengos, ImmunoCellular Therapeutics Chief Executive Officer, added, “With our lead phase 3 program ICT-107 underway and financed, we are now focusing additional resources and attention on moving our Stem-to-T-cell program toward clinical development. Our collaboration with Dr. Yee and MD Anderson is an important step in our efforts to build a leading cancer immunotherapy company, and we look forward to potentially establishing more collaborations and bringing additional promising technologies into ImmunoCellular.”