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Stanford engineers develop a simple delivery method that enhances a promising cancer treatment

As shown in this demonstration, the hydrogel can be easily injected through a needle and then rapidly self-heals after injection to form a solid-like gel.

Image credit: Abigail K. Grosskopf
Apr 8 2022
Fellow, Research, Stanford, Students

One cutting-edge cancer treatment exciting researchers today involves collecting and reprogramming a patient’s T cells – a special set of immune cells – then putting them back into the body ready to detect and destroy cancerous cells. Although effective for widespread blood cancers like leukemia, this method rarely succeeds at treating solid tumors.

Now, Stanford University engineers have developed a delivery method that enhances the “attack power” of the modified immune cells, called chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells. Researchers add CAR-T cells and specialized signaling proteins to a hydrogel – a water-filled gel that has characteristics in common with biological tissues – and inject the substance next to a tumor. This gel provides a temporary environment inside the body where the immune cells multiply and activate in preparation to fight cancerous cells, according to a new study published April 8 in Science Advances. The gel acts like a leaky holding pen that pumps out activated CAR-T cells to continuously attack the tumor over time.

Lead authour of the study, Abigail Grosskopf, is a 2017 SGF Fellow. Additional Stanford co-authors include: Louai Labanieh, a 2016 EDGE and SGF Fellow; Omokolade Adebowale, a 2015 EDGE and SGF Fellow.