Singapore is trialling a new treatment that uses white blood cells to recognise and kill cancer cells. If successful, it could change cancer treatment.
The revolutionary technology is developed by a local biotech firm, CytoMed Therapeutics. The new therapy will use modified white blood cells taken from healthy donors to recognise and kill cancer cells. The two-year trial will test the treatment on nine to 18 patients. The patients have six of the most common cancers in Singapore – lymphoma, multiple myeloma, colorectal, lung, liver or ovarian cancer.
Improving Access to Therapy
The treatment is developed to improve the quality of Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T cell. If successful, CytoMed’s new therapy could be a significant breakthrough in the treatment of cancer. The therapy is a new frontier of immunotherapy approaches to target cancer and its surrounding microenvironment. It potentially improves the quality of CAR-T cells manufactured, lowers production costs and increases patients’ access to therapy.
Revolutionary Cancer Treatment
CytoMed’s therapy uses allogeneic T cells, which do not require genetic matching to the patient, unlike the available autologous CAR-T cell therapies in Singapore that have shown success in treating specific types of leukaemia and lymphoma. Obtaining allogeneic T cells from healthy donors may result in higher-quality cells. Therefore, this could potentially lead to more effective treatment.
Dr Esther Chan, Senior Consultant, Department of Haematology-Oncology, NCIS, who is involved in the trial, said, “CAR-T cell therapy can be a life-saving treatment for many patients who are given a slim to no chance of survival. We are concurrently doing several trials for autologous CAR-T cell therapies, but this is the first locally designed trial that uses an allogeneic method to modify cells to fight cancer.”
CytoMed’s new therapy could treat more than 20 different types of solid and blood cancers, and the trial will evaluate if there are any specific types of cancer that respond better to the treatment. Allogeneic CAR T cells have the potential to improve the efficiency of CAR T-cell treatments, and when the treatment becomes fully commercialised, it could minimise the waiting time for patients.
Its principal investigator, Dr Raghav Sundar, an NCIS consultant, said: “Because this technology’s benefits are still very theoretical, we are taking a lot of precautions to see if it is safe, and whether its purported benefits play out in reality. That is why we are not recruiting many volunteers.”
They will expand the trial to more patients if it is successful. However, the technology’s benefits are still very theoretical, and it may take around five to eight years before the new therapy could become commercially available. Finally, the safety of the treatment will be a top priority for the trial.