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ACS Research Highlights

Reprogramming Exhausted Melanoma “Killer” Cells in Mice

An ACS grantee studies immunotherapy for melanoma, using cell therapy. 

The Challenge

Immunotherapy uses a patient’s own immune system to fight cancer. Certain types of immunotherapy known as cell therapy or cell transfer therapy, use immune cells called T cells, which are a type of white blood cell. The patient’s T cells are genetically changed in a lab to make them better able to kill cancer cells and returned to the patient’s body. But these superpowered T cells don’t work at full speed forever. They gradually become exhausted, and their cancer-killing abilities weaken.

The Research

Weiguo Cui, PhD, and his team on working on immunotherapy for melanoma. They believe they’ve found a genetic pathway that controls the T cells’ “killing” strength and duration. Using mice that have melanoma, Cui and his team are studying the pathway and hope to use it to design new ways to reprogram the exhausted T cells, thereby allowing them to regain and keep their “super-killing” abilities. 

Why It Matters

Cui’s team is hopeful that their work in mice will eventually lead to human studies to help develop new immunotherapy treatments that target different types of cancer cells.