CAR-T cell therapy involves removing T cells from a patient, programming them to target proteins found on the surface of cancer cells, then reintroducing them to the body. The technique has proven successful against some forms of leukemia but hasn’t translated well to other types of cancer, particularly solid tumors.
So MIT researchers set out to find a way to boost the effectiveness of CAR-T therapy. Their hypothesis was that the T cells might be shut down by the suppressive environment that tumors tend to build around themselves. They decided to investigate whether a vaccine could help the immune system get through those defenses.
The vaccine they created is designed to rally the CAR-T cells in the lymph nodes to fight the tumor. To do so, the vaccine contains a fatty molecule called a lipid tail that lets the drug travel straight to the lymph nodes, and once there, the active ingredient is an antigen that sends the T cells after the cancer.