Germany supports research on CAR T cell therapy for solid tumors

Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is funding the investigation of CAR T cell treatment for solid tumors. The government is providing EUR six million for a national, collaborative project to investigate and develop a new approach to therapy.

Illustration "leukemie"; Source: fotolia/Sebastian Kaulitzki
© fotolia/Sebastian Kaulitzki

CAR T cell therapy is a treatment cancer patients may rely on when chemotherapy or drugs have failed to destroy all malignant cancer cells and the disease recurs. CAR stands for chimeric antigen receptor, a type of modified T cell. Up to now, the treatment has been used successfully for certain types of leukemia. In this project, researchers are to develop CAR T therapies that will be effective against solid tumors as well.

At teaching clinics at universities in Erlangen, Hanover, Münster, and Regensburg, doctors are cooperating with the biotechnology company Miltenyi Biotec to develop a new technique to increase the efficacy of CAR T cells against treatment-resistant tumors. The cells used will carry a substance they only release after attaching to tumor cells. This substance – a strong messenger – is to aid the immune system in tackling the tumor much more effectively. It enables the cells multiply inside the tumor and make a real impact.

Dr. Andreas Mackensen, is coordinating the project in Erlangen. “CAR T cells basically act like miniature pharmacies which transport the substance to where it is needed. We hope that this will help avoid side effects in healthy tissue,” Mackensen explains. The cell product developed by the consortium identifies a feature found in neuroblastomas, a type of cancer which develops in childhood. This feature is also found in certain types of bone carcinoma and breast cancer. The BMBF is funding clinical trials using the new therapy approach at the four hospitals.

The consortium illustrates how German industry and clinical research, as well as the government, work together to develop novel drugs and treatments. This type of synergy has helped give Germany a medical biotechnology sector that is known as one of the world’s most innovative.

The export initiative for the German healthcare industry, HEALTH MADE IN GERMANY, is the place to learn more about how German medical biotech works. The initiative produces guides such as The German Medical Biotechnology Industry Profile and directories such as the one for Contract Research Organizations in Germany.

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