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Queen Mary University of London researchers have identified a protein that represents a proprietary therapeutic target for treating pancreatic cancer. The team used the protein as a target to successfully create a CAR T cell therapy.

Researchers identify a protein that can be targeted for pancreatic cancer treatment

It is important to note that CAR T cell therapy is a type of immunotherapy that has demonstrated significant promise in treating blood cancers. However, it has been challenging to use the therapy in treating solid tumors. Among the barriers to the success of the therapy is tissue toxicity besides the cancer. This is because the proteins employed in targeting CAR T cells to solid tumors such as pancreatic cancers are available in low levels on normal tissues which thus leading to toxicity.

The researchers published the Pancreatic Cancer UK-sponsored study in Clinical Cancer Research. The team identified the CEACAM7 protein which represents a safer treatment target for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) therapies treatment. PDAC is the most common pancreatic cancer type. Researchers used immunostaining in examining several human PDAC samples and normal tissues for the presence of the protein. Interestingly, most of the PDAC samples tested showed the presence of CEACAM7, but in normal tissues the protein was undetectable. This implies that CEACAM7 could be a good target for the development of pancreatic cancer CAR T cell therapies.

CAECAM7 can be a potential CAR T cell treatment target

Equally, the researchers determined CEACAM7’s potential as a treatment target by developing CAR T cells targeted to the protein. They applied them on PDAC cell lines and a preclinical PDAC model. Excitingly, the CAR T cells were effective kin targeting CECAM7-showing cells in PDAC cell structures and destroyed the cancer cells in late-stage PDAC preclinical models.

The study’s lead investigator, John Marshall said that this is a massive milestone. He said that identifying that CEACAM7 can destroy pancreatic cancer cells especially through CAR T cells without significant toxicity is promising that the strategy will in the future work. Marshall added that there is the potential of other immune-based therapies being directed to CAECAM7 to treat pancreatic cancer.