Early-stage research has shown that cancer cells from a well-known human cancer cell line (HeLa cells) can be killed by human neutrophils (a type of innate immune cell) that have been produced in a laboratory (rather than in the body). The breakthrough early-stage research opens up the possibility of being able to give patients access to the kind of exceptional cancer killing abilities that the immune cells of some healthy people naturally have. The work means that LIfT BioSciences, the company behind the work, can now proceed with their mission to create The World’s First Cell Bank of Cancer Killing Immune Cells that forms the basis for their potentially curative Leukocyte Infusion Therapy (LIfT). The breakthrough comes in Pancreatic Cancer Month, the first targeted indication for LIfT who plan to move into human clinical trials towards the end of next year.
The work was achieved in partnership with King’s College London. Professor Farzin Farzaneh, who is leading the research at King’s, commented, “I was initially sceptical about this when LIfT Biosciences approached us. It is something that I don't believe has been done before, and producing these specific cells with cancer killing ability is a notion we had not thought of before. We are excited by these early results and see the potential in LIfT BioSciences’ approach for further work”. LIfT BioSciences are partnered with King’s College London by life sciences cluster organisation, MedCity, after being selected for their ‘Collaborate to Innovate’ programme.
The breakthrough in the production of cancer-killing immune cells in the laboratory means that LIfT BioSciences’s special cells can now potentially be produced in very high volumes without the need for repeated blood donations. LIfT’s Prof Zheng Cui discovered over a decade ago that certain individuals naturally have white blood cells with exceptional cancer-killing abilities, which can potentially be transfused into cancer patients. However, until now this was not logistically considered a realistic therapy for the global fight against cancer. Previously, to provide a sufficiently therapeutic volume of these cells would have required the screening of hundreds, or even thousands of donors in order to treat one patient. This new, patent pending invention potentially provides a viable, scalable, and safe method of producing a sufficient number of effective cancer-killing cells for treating cancer patients. The breakthrough also firmly positions LIfT as a product therapy rather than a medical procedure which means accelerated access to market and patients. Further research to enhance the cancer-killing activity of these neutrophils will confirm the Advanced Therapeutic Medicinal Product (ATMP) status which was awarded to LIfT by the European Medicines Agency earlier this year.
Dr Nico Bruyniks, Chief Medical and Scientific Officer at LIfT BioSciences commented, “Cancer results from an accumulation of mutations and a failing immune system which is unable to remove cancer cells at an early stage. By producing highly effective immune cells in a lab we can potentially treat cancer in patients whose own innate immune systems are failing”.
Sarah Haywood, CEO at MedCity, which devised and runs the Collaborate to Innovate programme, said: “Our programme was set up to connect promising life sciences companies in the region with leading academics, to help them solve a problem and get their idea from mind to market. LIfT BioSciences came to us with an ambitious mission to cure Pancreatic Cancer by 2021 (in clinical trials) and this significant progress by Professor Farzanah and his team puts them on course to make this a reality. It’s incredible work that could change the lives of so many and shows what can be achieved when academia and industry come together.”
The company was set-up by Alex Blyth, whose mother, Margaret Blyth, died of Pancreatic cancer in 2014. This prompted Alex, who has worked in the Biopharma industry for 15 years, to set-up the company to find and develop a cure for Pancreatic Cancer and other unmet-need cancers. “Our invention is a significant milestone in our mission to cure pancreatic cancer and other cancers with low survival rates” said Alex Blyth, Chief Executive Officer at LIfT BioSciences, “We are delighted to be achieving such promising results as we move towards clinical trials. We now look forward to working with new and existing investment partners as we make cancer history!”