NEW YORK — In his ground-breaking research, an Indian American scientist is leading a team who have engineered T-cells — a type of immune cells — to break the pancreatic cancer’s physical and immunological walls through immunotherapy.

Dr. Sunil Hingorani, a member of the clinical research and public health sciences divisions at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Wash., and his colleagues created T-cells with a high affinity to a relatively tumor-specific antigen. 

Hingorani looked for proteins — also found in the linings of the heart and lungs — that are expressed in unusually large amounts in the tumor cells and are minimally expressed elsewhere. 

The T-cells were then engineered to attack those proteins. In the tests conducted on mice with pancreatic tumors, the engineered T-cells killed those cells over a 10-day period.

Additionally, Hingorani and his team have worked to develop an enzyme that can help defeat the tumor’s high interstitial pressures and can potentially open the door for greater penetration and effectiveness of T-cells and other types of agents. 

By the end of the year, Hingorani hopes to have the human version of the T-cell in clinical trials.

The findings were recently presented at the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2016 in New Orleans, La.

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