Immunotherapy is under development to target cancer cells and prevent metastases.
In a study paper published in the journal Cancer Immunology Research, researchers at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, PA, report how they tested the treatment, which is a type of immunotherapy known as chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy, in mice that were implanted with human colorectal cancer tumors.
The treatment killed colorectal cancer tumors and prevented them spreading.
Successful completion of this last preclinical stage means that the next step would be a phase I clinical trial in human patients.
The progress is significant because there are few treatment options for colorectal cancer once it has advanced.
“The concept of moving [CAR T-cell] therapy to colorectal cancer is a major breakthrough,” states Dr. Karen Knudsen, who is director of the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University, “and could address a major unmet clinical need.”
Advanced colorectal cancer
Although colorectal cancer is the “third most common” cancer to affect both men and women in the United States, it is the second main cause of cancer deaths.
Estimates suggest that there were 139,992 new cases of colorectal cancer and 51,651 deaths to the disease in the U.S. in 2014, the latest year for official figures.
As with most cancers, most deaths in colorectal cancer occur in patients with advanced disease, which begins when the primary tumor starts to spread.
The tumor can spread either locally into the neighboring tissue, or through metastasis, a process in which cells escape the primary tumor and migrate to other parts of the body where they can set up new, secondary tumors.
Not all cancer cells that escape a primary tumor succeed in forming secondary tumors. The process is complex and has many steps — from breaking away to migrating, evading the immune system, and setting up camp — and it can fail at any step.
|Read on: Colorectal cancer: Treatment looks set for human clinical trials|