Immunotherapy to Combat Cancer: "Sleeping Beauty" – DNA Plasmid-based Gene Transfer System to Modify T Cells

January 28, 2015

Fighting cancer is a major goal of present-day medicine. So far mainly surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy are utilized to extinguish cancerous tissue, or at least set limits to it. Interestingly the human immune system has effective potential to fight cancer cells. Typically it reacts on parasitic, viral or bacterial infections. Thereby T-cells help to destroy infested cells after binding them via their specific antigen receptor.
Lawrence Cooper and colleagues (University of Texas) together with Perry Hackett (University of Minnesota) developed "Sleeping Beauty", which is a DNA plasmid-based gene transfer system to modify T-cells. With its help T-cells can be altered to express a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) that binds to a certain cell-surface protein on targeted malignant cells.

In the video below, recombinant CAR T-cells were altered to target CD19, which is an antigen typically expressed by malignant B-cells. In the course of three and a half days, living tumor cells (green fluorescence) are killed by CD19 CAR T-cells (unlabeled) and turn red (dead) gradually.

YouTube video by MC Anderson Cancer Center, January 2015

More information on Sleeping Beauty and MD Anderson's cancer fighting efforts:

www.cancerfrontline.org/sleeping-beauty-car-t-cells/

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