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Therapeutics


Preserving cell integrity and viability to drive the discovery of cell therapies


Cell therapies are poised to play a pivotal role in the development of precision and personalised medicines that will transform healthcare for millions of patients worldwide.


By Mary Kay Bates


I


nvolving the direct use of whole cells or cellu- lar material in patients, cell therapy is an umbrella term for many subdivisions of biolog-


ical research, encompassing fields such as stem cell therapy, gene therapy and immunotherapy. These powerful techniques are deeply reliant on high- purity environments for culturing cells. As such, preserving the integrity of sensitive samples is a daily challenge for cell culture laboratories in their search for innovative new therapies. The cells used in transplantation can either be


derived from an individual patient (autologous cell therapy) or from another donor (allogeneic cell therapy). Allogeneic methods are more akin to the pharmaceutical model of drug manufacturing as products can be produced on a larger scale and can be prepared for ‘off the shelf’ distribution, provid- ed the recipients have an immunological profile matching the cells or cell products. For research purposes, autologous cell therapies are often favoured because they do not require immunologi- cal matching and are personalised to the patient. One area in which autologous therapies have


shown particular potential is in the treatment of cancer. Recent advances in immuno-oncology research, for example, have resulted in a paradigm


74


shift for treatment of some cancers. Immuno-oncol- ogy approaches have been found to be more effec- tive at long-lasting tumour regression than alterna- tives such as surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and targeted therapy1,2. Immuno-oncology thera- pies typically use genetically modified T-cells to combat and kill cancerous tissue by identifying the cancer cells as a foreign body in need of attack. T- cell therapies based on chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cells are widely employed for this purpose, as they have the capacity to proliferate within the patient after infusion and offer sustained functional immunity. This efficacy has been proven in a wide range of cancers3 and has shown encouraging clin- ical data from Phase I trials in solid tumours, such as neuroblastoma. These innovative therapies rely on the use of


techniques and technologies that minimise the risk of contamination and achieve the strictly-con- trolled, secure environment necessary for growing healthy, viable cells. This article discusses the chal- lenges facing cell therapy research, and how the latest cell culture technologies are delivering enhanced safety capabilities, improved laboratory performance and, ultimately, optimised cell thera- py processes.


Drug Discovery World Summer 2018


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