CAR NK therapy offers new treatment option for blood cancers

Natural killer cells – or NK cells – are part of our immune system. They patrol our bodies for abnormal cells like cancer and destroy them. But cancer cells can make themselves invisible, making it much more difficult for NK cells to find them and do their job. Through clinical research, MD Anderson is developing a new type of immunotherapy called CAR NK therapy. This type of treatment enhances the cancer-fighting power of NK cells. “We’re trying to build on the natural ability of NK cells by giving them the skills to recognize and destroy cancer cells that have made themselves invisible,” says Katy Rezvani, M.D., Ph.D., co-leader of MD Anderson’s adoptive cell therapy platform. Enhancing cancer-fighting ability of NK cells Through the MD Anderson Cord Blood Bank, Rezvani and her team gather NK cells from donated umbilical cord blood and transform these cells into an effective cancer therapy. “Our approach is to extract NK cells from the blood of an umbilical cord that’s been donated by parents after their baby's birth,” Rezvani says. A molecule called a chimeric antigen receptor – or a CAR – is then added to the NK cells. With this addition, the new CAR NK cells can now recognize a target on the surface of the previously “invisible” cancer cell and attack. Current research has focused on a specific target molecule called CD19, which is found on certain cancer cells. Through the first CAR NK clinical trial, Rezvani and her team are treating patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and acute lymphoblastic leukemia. A ready-to-use blood cancer treatment option Because CAR NK therapy...