Immunotherapy month: T-cells and transplants—avoiding cancer relapse after liver transplantation using AIM Biotech’s organ-on-a-chip assays

To round out our month-long series highlighting research on adoptive T cell immunotherapy, today we’ll take a look at how scientists are modifying T cells to help prevent cancer relapse on liver transplanted patients, harnessing AIM Biotech’s technology.

In cases where a liver tumor can’t be removed, liver transplant is one effective therapy for hepatic cancer patients. Unfortunately, some patients still experience cancer relapse even after a successful transplant, and there are no current therapies to prevent it. Hafezi and co-workers studied an adoptive T cell immunotherapy to prevent cancer relapse after liver transplantation using AIM Biotech’s organ-on-a-chip technology.

There is, of course, an inherent roadblock to such an approach: while the other studies discussed this month demonstrated that these immune cells can be engineered to effectively attack tumors, transplant patients must take regular immunosuppressants—which could render the entire treatment ineffective.

Immunotherapy in an immunosuppressant environment

At the beginning, the scientists tested T cell capacities in the presence of immunosuppressive drugs that liver transplant patients normally take to avoid graft rejections. For that, they injected hepatic cancer cells in the central chamber of the AIM chip and added engineered T cells to the side channels in the presence or absence of immunosuppressive drugs—tacrolimus and MMS. As expected, the presence of the drugs inhibited T cells’ capacity to migrate to the central chamber and kill the cancer cells.

So then, they engineered T cells further to make them resistant to these drugs. They inserted different mRNAs that express proteins that confer tacrolimus and MMS resistance. After this modification, the scientists used AIM Biotech’s organ-on-a-chip system to demonstrate that these engineered T cells were able to migrate to the central chamber and kill the cancer cells even in the presence of the immunosuppressive drugs. In this way, they demonstrated what could become a groundbreaking new way to help this population of cancer patients avoid relapse for the first time.

Thanks for reading this series on immunotherapy this past month here on AIM’s Voices feed. If you missed any of our past posts on this fascinating field, you can go back and see how AIM’s technology empowered the studies that laid the groundwork for this one:

Gathering more predictive, human-relevant data like this is what AIM’s unique human-on-a-chip tech is all about. Want to discuss how this researcher-friendly tech can transform your research, too? Use the chat bubble on the bottom right corner of this page, and we’ll reach out to you—or check out our Contact Us page. Also be sure to look at how our contract research services can help streamline your workflow.