Immuno-Oncology Resource Center

Immuno-Oncology Resource Center


Church SE, et al. Abstract 946. Presented at: Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer Annual Meeting; Nov. 10-14, 2021; Washington, D.C.

Disclosures: Butterfield reports no relevant financial disclosures.
December 02, 2021
3 min read

Project aims to improve cancer cell therapies through gene expression profiling


Church SE, et al. Abstract 946. Presented at: Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer Annual Meeting; Nov. 10-14, 2021; Washington, D.C.

Disclosures: Butterfield reports no relevant financial disclosures.
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Tumor gene expression profiles have become standard practice to help guide treatment of several cancer types.

This type of molecular analysis has proven useful for determining which treatments may or may not be successful based on a patient’s genetic characteristics.

Quote from Lisa H. Butterfield, PhD.

A presentation at this year’s Society for Cancer Immunotherapy Annual Meeting highlighted a new genetic profiling collaboration between Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy (PICI) and NanoString Technologies.

The project calls for gene expression profiling of apheresis and cell therapy products at a network of participating research institutions across the United States. Findings will be made publicly available to researchers through Parker Institute’s Cancer Data and Evidence Library.

The goal is to provide next-generation cellular therapies that are personalized so patients receive treatments that are more effective and less toxic, according to Lisa H. Butterfield, PhD, vice president of research and development at Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy and an adjunct professor of microbiology and immunology at University of California, San Francisco.

Butterfield spoke with Healio about the project, what investigators hope to learn, and how clinicians and patients may benefit.

Healio: Can you explain the motivation for this project?

Butterfield: This project came out of a discussion between people at Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy and NanoString. We have collaborated with NanoString on many things over the past few years and they are very scientifically motivated collaborators. We were discussing a new molecular profiling approach they are developing called the CAR-T Characterization Panel. It is not specific to CAR T cells and can be applied to all effector cells that kill tumors. It is based on considerable published scientific data and includes a very focused list of approximately 770 genes that are important for the activity of killer T cells.

PICI has a big interest in cell therapies. We believe it is a clinical approach that is incredibly impactful, and that we are just scratching the surface of what is possible. Based on our interest in cell therapies and NanoString's development of a kit to profile these cells, we discussed what the impact could be of examining the characteristics of products produced by our network of scientists and researchers — including leukapheresis, the cells they remove from patients and the products they produce in their labs — and patient outcomes. This would give researchers an incredibly powerful data set.

Healio: Who is contributing to this collaboration?

Butterfield: Along with Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy and NanoString, participating institutions include University of California, San Francisco; University of California, Los Angeles; University of Pennsylvania; City of Hope; Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center; Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; Stanford University and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. These academic medical centers all are developing cell therapies, and they are bringing forward specimens they are investigating and testing in clinical trials.

Healio: What do you hope to learn from this effort?

Butterfield: Clinical trials often are only able to ask a few questions about the products with which investigators are working. With a lot of research often dependent on grant money, often there are not enough resources to do a high-throughput discovery analysis on the cells. This project will give the opportunity for researchers to learn about the blood upfront, the products made from it and the outcomes of patients. This will give the field an opportunity to identify who may benefit from a particular therapy and who may experience treatment-related toxicity, and tell us which genes are responsible for those positive or negative impacts.

By bringing together the capabilities of Parker, NanoString and our participating labs, it gives us an even larger data set that can inform us about what works and what doesn't work in terms of cell therapies for patients with cancer. It will allow us to pinpoint specific genes that can be changed in future iterations of a therapy. This collaboration will help direct future research that allows cell therapies to become more effective.

Healio: Who will benefit from the data this project generates?

Butterfield: Bench researchers in cell therapy, physicians who treat patients with cell therapies and, ultimately, the patients who receive experimental cell therapies will benefit from what we learn when it is incorporated into the next generation of cell therapies.

Healio: What is the status and timeline for this project?

Butterfield: We presented the project design at this year’s SITC Annual Meeting, which included details about smaller projects between NanoString and individual labs regarding specific cell types. We are already collecting samples that are being processed by our participating labs, and we hope to have results early next year.

Healio: What impact do you hope this project can have on the clinical use of cell therapies for cancer treatment?

Butterfield: I look forward to a future of personalized cell therapy — a future in which both the patient's tumor and immune system are molecularly profiled so we can determine what is missing so we can engineer a cell that can fix it. With this database of knowledge, we can start to piece these things together so we can manipulate an individual's cells in such a way that it will have a much bigger impact.