Cytiva’s cell therapy specialist Dr. Shannon Eaker welcomed some unexpected guests to his lab in a recent episode of “Lab Invaders”, where a Facebook Live audience is taken behind the scenes at a Cytiva laboratory.
Fortunately, Dr. Eaker has a PhD in cell biology and was well-prepared for a lot of the questions about his area of expertise –T-cell therapy.

What are T-cells?

T-cells have superpowers; they differentiate healthy cells from cancer cells, then attack the cancer cells. However, cancer cells are good at hiding from our body’s immune system, tricking it into thinking we are doing just fine.

How do you prepare T-cells for cell therapy?

To get the immune system to re-launch an attack on the cancer, T-cells need to be super-charged. The first step is isolating them from an individual patient’s blood. The T-cells are genetically modified, altering the DNA script so that the T-cells specifically recognize and kill cancer cells. In effect, this supercharges them to destroy cancer, while retaining the T-cell ability to leave healthy cells alone. The T-cells are grown up in large amounts, so that the patient can be administered as many of their modified T-cells as possible to fight the cancer.

How successful is T-cell therapy?

The progress that we have seen in cell therapy on the cancer front is truly amazing. T-cell therapy has been shown to remove all signs of cancer from the body, most notably for blood diseases like leukaemia. Also, many researchers say that more than 50% of patients who receive cell therapy see a reduction in disease. However, the therapy is not appropriate for everyone and comes with some risks. T-cell therapies for cancer have not yet been approved by regulatory bodies but we are very, very close.

What other disorders are caused by cellular diseases?

We need the cells in our body to perform their allocated tasks, and it’s in cases where they stop functioning that we see cells causing disease. For instance, malfunctioning pancreatic cells cause diabetes, faulty neural cells can cause cerebral palsy, the list goes on and on.

Has any other progress been seen recently in the field of cell therapy?

Hundreds of cell therapy clinical trials are being run today. Examples include: replacement cartilage for joints, cell-based skin substitutes for ulcers, and bone grafts for bone disorders.

What do you personally find amazing about cell therapy?

Cell therapy truly is a personalized treatment that is developed for each individual patient.
It’s exciting that our work to provide a start-to-finish solution to the manufacturing process is moving the cell therapy industry towards availability for more patients who need it.