With multiple CAR T-cell therapies proven to help blood cancers, researchers are now seeking opportunities for breakthroughs for solid tumors.
While many researchers have yet to test CAR T cells against these cancers, Christine Brown, PhD, deputy director of the T Cell Therapeutics Research Laboratory at Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope, is at the forefront of clinical trials in brain cancer – with hopeful results.
Dr. Brown, a member of the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy Scientific Advisory Council, is a lead researcher at the City of Hope National Medical Center with a clinical focus on glioblastoma. She plays an integral role in helping ACGT choose research programs to fund through donations.
Dr. Brown is also part of the effort to find a cure through laboratory and clinical testing. She and her team in Duarte, California, are running an early phase clinical trial involving CAR T-cell therapy for recurrent glioblastoma – with promising early results.
What is glioblastoma?
Glioblastoma is a cancer of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). Tumors in the brain and spinal cord offer quite a few challenges for treatment. The brain-blood barrier serves as a wall between the tumor cells and immune system cells or therapies.
This leaves patients with few options. Surgery is risky and requires a skilled surgeon, and only a small percentage of patients are candidates for surgery, and it rarely leads to a cure. Chemotherapy can slow tumor progression but rarely stops it, while often causing debilitating side effects.
Testing cell and gene therapy for glioblastoma is a focus for many doctors, hospitals and funding organizations like Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy. Around 12,000 new cases are diagnosed annually in the U.S., and patients often have a low life expectancy – of just a few months. Changing the survival rates requires finding more options for treatment, starting with CAR T cells.
Can we count on CAR T cells against glioblastoma?
The lack of safe and effective therapies for glioblastoma is why many cancer experts are interested in testing different cancer cell and gene therapies, like CAR T cells. This approach reprograms the patient’s T cells, which are the patient’s immune system soldiers, to seek specific types of tumors.
They’re essentially modified to look for biomarkers unique to glioblastoma tumors. Once reinserted into the body, CAR T cells are better equipped to reach tumors and fight back against the cancer spread.
Dr. Brown presented survival data at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Virtual Special Conference: Brain Cancer. The study involved people with relapsed glioblastoma – a tumor that returned following standard treatment, such as chemotherapy.
Patients received at least three infusions of IL13R-alpha2 CAR T cells intracranially, which led to a median overall survival of 10.5 months. This result is an improvement from standard-of-care chemotherapy of 5-9 months for glioblastoma.
Dr. Brown’s delivery method is possibly the most intriguing aspect of her trial. Since she’s delivering the CAR T cells intracranially instead of through the bloodstream, the therapy bypasses the brain-blood barrier. This delivery tactic allows new-and-improved T cells to be delivered within or close to the tumor environment.
Cell and gene therapy at City of Hope
Dr. Brown’s lab at City of Hope has an overarching goal to develop, optimize and translate CAR T cell therapy for the treatment of cancer, with a particular emphasis on its application to brain tumors.
“The question remains whether immunotherapy — such as CAR T cells — can improve outcomes compared with standard of care. This is clearly a tough problem and an unmet medical need, as malignant brain tumors — and particularly glioblastoma — pose many challenges to immunotherapy.” — Christine Brown, PhD
Her mission to find a cure for glioblastoma stretches to her membership on ACGT’s Scientific Advisory Council. This group includes some of the most accomplished scientists, researchers and thought leaders in cell and gene therapy for cancer. The Council is an integral part of determining which research or clinical studies receive funding from Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy.
Dr. Brown’s research, plus the efforts of organizations like Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy, will help improve survival for people with glioblastoma. We at Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy ask you to join us in the fight against this cancer and other diseases. Please consider donating today as we push forward for a cancer-free future thanks to CAR T-cell therapy.
- As CAR-T advances into solid tumors, glioblastoma emerges as area of opportunity. Healio. Retrieved from: https://www.healio.com/news/hematology-oncology/20211111/as-cart-advances-into-solid-tumors-glioblastoma-emerges-as-area-of-opportunity. Accessed: 11/15/2021.
- Mustang Bio Announces MB-101 (IL13Rα2‐targeted CAR T cells) Scientific Presentations at Upcoming Virtual Conferences. Mustang Bio. Retrieved from: https://ir.mustangbio.com/News/news-details/2021/Mustang-Bio-Announces-MB-101-IL13R2targeted-CAR-T-cells-Scientific-Presentations-at-Upcoming-Virtual-Conferences/default.aspx. Accessed: 01/07/2022.
- IL13Ra2-CAR T Cells With or Without Nivolumab and Ipilimumab in Treating Patients With GBM. Clinicaltrials.gov. Retrieved from: https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT04003649. Accessed: 01/18/2022.