UF-led study offers insights into adoptive cellular therapy to treat brain tumor

Dr. Flores and team
(L-R) Drs. Duane Mitchell, Catherine Flores and Elias Sayour.

New research led by UF’s Catherine Flores, Ph.D., and Duane Mitchell, M.D., Ph.D., offers insights to brain tumor researchers seeking to understand if certain patients are likely to respond to treatment known as adoptive cellular therapy, a type of immunotherapy in which T cells are infused into a patient to help fight cancer.

The study, published in the journal Science Advances with peers at UF, Duke University Medical Center and Stanford University Medical Center, is a significant advance, yielding data from both mouse models and a human clinical trial using a novel form of adoptive cellular therapy developed at UF.

In addition to providing insight into whether adoptive cellular therapy is likely to be effective in certain patients, the study may also further understanding of mechanisms of treatment resistance.

Investigators found that in tumor-bearing hosts that are responsive to adoptive cellular therapy, there is a massive expansion of tumor-reactive immune cells in peripheral blood, a phenomenon that does not occur in those that do not respond to the therapy.

This expansion was observed in mouse-model studies of medulloblastoma and glioblastoma, as well as in a human patient with relapsed medulloblastoma receiving adoptive cellular therapy, the investigators reported.

“Brain tumor patients who receive adoptive cellular therapy may benefit from this research as this could help inform us if treated patients are responding to therapy,” said Flores, principal investigator of the Hematopoietic Stem Cell Engineering Laboratory within UF’s Preston A. Wells Jr. Center for Brain Tumor Therapy. “This study suggests that we have the potential to identify responders versus non-responders to therapy.”

The next step in this line of research is to determine whether these findings are confirmed in human clinical trials.

Flores and Mitchell are members of the McKnight Brain Institute and the UF Health Cancer Center.

Read the article in Science Advances.