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Open Access Highly Accessed Commentary

Armed and accurate: engineering cytotoxic T cells for eradication of leukemia

Marko Radic

Author Affiliations

Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Biochemistry, University of Tennessee, Health Sciences Center, Memphis, TN 38163 (USA

BMC Biotechnology 2012, 12:6  doi:10.1186/1472-6750-12-6

Published: 8 February 2012


Translational medicine depends on a rapid and efficient exchange of results between the bench and the bedside. A recent example from the field of cancer immunotherapy highlights the essential nature of this exchange. Methods have been developed to convert a patient's cytotoxic T cells into efficient and specific killers of cancer cells in patients with leukemia. By using recombinant DNA techniques, a lentiviral vector was constructed to express chimeric antigen receptors in cytotoxic T cells from patients with advanced chronic lymphocytic leukemia. The purpose of the chimeric receptors was to direct the cytotoxic T cell activity against cells causing the cancer. The effect of infusing the engineered T cells back into the cancer patients was tested in a Phase I trial at the University of Pennsylvania, and the initial results were described in two articles from the research team of Dr. Carl June. The remarkable success of this trial should energize further applications of biotechnology in the development of new cancer immunotherapies.