Gene-editing stem cells to improve immunotherapies
Aim of the research
Dr Pierre Guermonprez aims to combine a gene-editing technique called CRISPR with the new field of immunotherapy to boost the immune system and improve existing cancer treatments.
Meet the scientist
Pierre Guermonprez is a group leader and reader at King's College London. His main interest is to better understand how certain immune cells work and how they can be manipulated by gene editing.
More about the research project
Immunotherapies for cancer are hot topic at the moment. And if you follow the news you'll know gene-editing using the recently discovered CRISPR technology is also high on the agenda. Dr Pierre Guermonprez, based at King's College London, is interested in using a bit of both with his grant from Worldwide Cancer Research.
Dr Guermonprez and his team want to see if they can use gene-editing technology to engineer a special type of immune cell, called a dendritic cell, which could be used to help boost a person's immune system in order to make other treatments work more effectively. They plan to develop new laboratory methods for coaxing stem cells (these cells are capable of becoming any cell in the body) to turn into dendritic cells that could be used for therapy. Using this method they will then be able to tweak the genetics of the stem cells using CRISPR to see if they can produce dendritic cells that are able to induce a strong immune response. The development of these novel techniques will hopefully pave the way for the development of a new type of cancer therapy that could bolster the strength of other drugs.
Professor Eduard Batlle and his team at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine, Barcelona, Spain, have recently designed a genetically engineered mouse model, which captures the key molecular hallmarks of metastatic colorectal cancer. Studies using this mouse model have revealed that by blocking a particular communication network in these metastatic cancers they are able to turn the immune system against the cancer cells. However, many of the mice developed resistance to this type of treatment as the cancers became metastatic.
Professor Batlle’s project aims to pick apart the molecular mechanism that drives this resistance as the disease progresses to a metastatic stage. It’s hoped that by understanding why some tumours are resistant to treatment they will be able to develop novel strategies to treat metastatic colorectal cancer.