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Engineered Cancer Cells Can Fight Cancer, Brigham And Women's Researchers Find

In this image, CRISPR-engineered therapeutic cancer cells (green) track primary cancer cells (red) in the brain. (Khalid Shah lab/CSTI)
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In this image, CRISPR-engineered therapeutic cancer cells (green) track primary cancer cells (red) in the brain. (Khalid Shah lab/CSTI)

A study led by researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital finds that CRISPR-enhanced, reverse-engineered cancer cells can be used to kill that cancer from within.

The researchers tested two different methods to bio-engineer multiple types of cancer cells to place inside mice with cancer. One method altered cells from the mice using the gene-editing technology CRISPR. The other used pre-engineered cells that matched the patient's own genes. Those tweaked cells were then placed inside the mice, to seek out and kill tumors of their respective cancer types.

Dr. Khalid Shah, director of the Brigham's Center for Stem Cell Therapeutics and Imaging, said both methods focused on cells' ability to home in on other cells of their kind — no matter where they were in the body.

"If we can find cells that are hiding in the body as cells as tumor cells, these cells can track them," he said, adding this could help doctors get therapeutics to previously hard-to-reach tumor sites, and could possibly be applicable "across all cancer cell types."

Shah said up to 80 percent of mice survived their cancers after receiving the cell treatments.

The study is published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

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