4. Immunotherapy, great promise to fight cancer

Immunotherapy is one of the great promises to fight cancer. In fact, in 2013 the journal Science named it the scientific event of the year.

One part of immunotherapy is based on CAR therapy and consists in modifying the patient’s own lymphocytes to fiercely attack tumor cells, especially those of blood tumors. In the laboratory, they are given a receptor that recognizes, for example, a specific type of lymphocyte (some of which are dividing out of control), adding a system so that they are attacked and destroyed. Although some results are being seen, it isn’t exempt from problems: so far it only works on certain tumors and can have side effects when it also attacks healthy cells, or in some cases provoke an excessive response that is difficult to stop.

Wendell Lim’s laboratory is working to improve these weaknesses. For example, adding another receptor that would act as a switch: if a drug is administered that binds to it, the response is activated; when the drug is no longer administered, it turns off. Another example: adding new, more specific layers of receptors for each tumor that don’t attack healthy cells.