New therapy approach points to potential treatment of liver cancer patients with hepatitis B virus infection
Chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is predominant in Asia and is highly associated with the development of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), a commonly occurring liver cancer.
The currently available effective treatments for small to moderate size HCC are restricted to surgery, liver transplantation and loco-regional treatment that kill cancer cells by interventional radiologic means, while treatment with drugs helps only in a modest increase in the overall survival in more extensive disease. In patients who have HCC recurrence after liver transplantation, the treatment options are even more limited.
Researchers from Duke-NUS Medical School, Singapore General Hospital (SGH) and Lion TCR (a clinical-stage biotechnology company) have demonstrated that they were able to engineer HBV-specific T cells, a type of immune cells found in the body, to treat HCC. The treatment was also individualised, as T cells that were engineered were specific to the patients. The approach was successfully performed on two liver transplanted patients who had HBV associated liver cancer recurrence with one patient seeing a reduction in size of the tumour lesions.
βIn this study we showed that the integrated HBV-DNA gene components in the HCC cells were able to activate functional HBV-specific T cells. Hence, by analysing the specific HBV- DNA integration patterns in these HCC cells, we were able to select, design and engineer the individualised T cells for therapy. Our studies showed that these engineered T cells were able to destroy the tumour,β said Dr Antonio Bertoletti, professor of the Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID) Programme at Duke-NUS, Founder of the Singapore biotech company Lion TCR and co- author of the study.
The authors plan to further refine the technique and treatment strategy with further research study and trials to improve the efficacy of the therapy.
Click here for the complete issue.