A team of researchers from Chiba University and Riken has conducted a clinical trial in which immune cells generated from human induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells were administered to a patient suffering from head and neck cancer.
This is the first cancer treatment in Japan to use cells derived from iPS cells, according to the team.
Head and neck cancer is a collective name for types of cancer that begin in structures of the head and neck, including the nose, mouth, throat, jaw and ears.
About 30,000 people are estimated to have this type of cancer in Japan.
The team took blood samples from healthy people and isolated natural killer T (NKT) cells that attack cancer cells and activate other immune cells. The team then turned the NKT cells into iPS cells, multiplied them and then converted them back into NKT cells.
On Oct. 14, the team conducted tests at Chiba University Hospital on a patient who had advanced cancer and on whom it would be difficult to perform surgery or chemotherapy. The patient was arterially given about 50 million NKT cells from the wrist to the affected area.
Using a different person’s NKT cells makes it easier to turn iPS cells back into NKT cells, allowing the preparation of a sufficient amount of the cells in advance.
The team plans to conduct further clinical trials by administering the cells to four to 18 patients in their 20s to 70s up to three times every two weeks through the end of March 2022. The trials are intended to ensure the safety and effectiveness of this treatment.
The team said it hopes that NKT cells and other immune cells will attack cancer cells and suppress their growth.
“We want to proceed with the clinical trials carefully, putting safety first,” said Chiba University Prof. Shinichiro Motohashi, who leads the team.