A team of researchers led by a Kyoto University professor will begin full-fledged studies next fiscal year to develop a treatment method for leukemia using induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells.
To treat the white blood cell cancer, the team aims to produce a kind of immune system cell that has strong abilities to attack cancer cells. The iPS cells will be produced from cells of leukemia patients. Kyoto University’s ethics committee has approved the study plan.
There is no precedent for clinical tests in which cancer could be cured using immune system cells produced from iPS cells. If the planned method is proven to be effective in experiments on animals, the team will begin clinical tests on people in 2019 by injecting them with the immune system cells produced to examine the safety and effectiveness of the new method.
The immune system cells the team will look to produce from iPS cells are called killer T cells. Killer T cells attack cancer cells, viruses and others they recognize as enemies by detecting molecular differences on the surface of those cells.
Cancer treatment methods using killer T cells have been studied in Japan and abroad. Each type of killer T cell attacks different kinds of enemies. One hurdle has been the difficulty in cultivating killer T cells to increase their number inside a patient.
The team led by Prof. Hiroshi Kawamoto of the university’s Institute for Frontier Medical Sciences focused on the fact that, even after killer T cells are converted into iPS cells, the iPS cells retained memories about the enemies they recognized as original killer T cells.
By converting killer T cells that attack specific kinds of cancer cells into iPS cells, which can reproduce themselves indefinitely, the team believes it is possible to increase the number of killer T cells. The team expects that injecting the multiplied killer T cells into patients’ bodies will make it possible to attack cancer cells more effectively than through conventional treatment methods.
Last year, the team made killer T cells from iPS cells that were produced from the cells of healthy people. It confirmed that injecting the killer T cells into mice suffering from leukemia could extend their survival period.
In fiscal 2016, the team plans to extract killer T cells from the blood of patients with acute myelocytic leukemia and produce iPS cells from them.
After producing a large number of killer T cells from those iPS cells, the team will confirm in test tubes how well the new killer T cells battle leukemia cells.
In fiscal 2017, the team will conduct detailed experiments on animals, and it seeks to conduct clinical trials on people in 2019. The team aims to put the method into practical use two or three years after successful clinical tests.(The Yomiuri Shimbun)
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