Ultrasound tech genetically controls cells to kill cancer new study finds

Researchers say the approach breaks new ground in treating cancer non-invasively and with unprecedented precision.
By Bernie Monegain
01:07 PM
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Ultrasound technology kills cancer cells

Researchers from UC San Diego, University of Southern California and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, have created a way to target and kill cancer cells remotely via ultrasound.

The National Institutes of Health supported the project.

Without being invasive, the approach makes it possible to remotely control genetic processes in live immune T cells to identify and kill cancer cells. Researchers used ultrasound to mechanically disturb T cells, and then converted the mechanical signals into genetic control of cells. 

In a study, they show how their remote-controlled mechanogenetics system can engineer chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-expressing T cells that can target and kill cancer cells. The engineered CAR-T cells have mechano-sensors and genetic transducing modules that can be remotely activated by ultrasound.

“CAR-T cell therapy is becoming a paradigm-shifting therapeutic approach for cancer treatment,” bioengineering professor Peter Yingxiao Wang at the University of California San Diego, said in a news release.

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Wang noted that major challenges remain before CAR-based immunotherapy could become widely adopted. However, the work could ultimately lead to an “unprecedented precision and efficiency” in CAR-T cell immunotherapy against solid tumors, while minimizing off-tumor toxicities.

The research team developed a new approach to use mechanogenetics for the remote control of gene and cell activations. Mechanogenetics is a field of science that focuses on how physical forces and changes in the mechanical properties of cells and tissues influence gene expression for the remote control of gene and cell activations.

There is a critical need to non-invasively and remotely manipulate cells at a distance, particularly for translational applications in animals and humans, researchers said.

Two CAR T-cell therapies were approved by the FDA in 2017. One was for the treatment of children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and the other for adults with advanced lymphomas.

Researchers note it’s still the beginning for CAR T cells and other forms of adoptive cell cancer, including questions about whether they will ever be effective against solid tumors such as breast and colorectal cancer.

The study is published in the journal PNAS.

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Email the writer: bernie.monegain@himssmedia.com