The experiment, proposed by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, would use CRISPR-Cas9 technology to modify patients' own T cells to make them more effective in attacking melanoma, multiple myeloma and sarcoma.
The federal Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee approved the Penn proposal unanimously, with one member abstaining. The experiment still must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates clinical trials.
The early stage-trial, which will involve more than a dozen patients, will be designed to test the safety of the therapy. It will be conducted at three medical institutions — Penn, MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and the University of California at San Francisco.
The study involves T cells, which are white blood cells essential for ridding the body of bacteria, malignancies and other invaders. Carl June and other researchers at Penn have pioneered an immune therapy, called CAR T-cell treatment, in which the cells are extracted from a patient, genetically engineered and then re-injected into the blood stream.
Under the study approved Tuesday, CRISPR would be used to remove two genes in the T cells to make the treatment last longer and reduce the chance of the cancer returning.
“Our goal is to develop a new type of immunotherapy using gene-editing technology that will enable the engineered immune cells to be more potent, survive longer and thereby kill cancer cells more effectively,” the scientists said.
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