One of the most important battles in the fight against cancer takes place at the cellular level. Because her T cells of the immune system are modified in the lab to attack cancer cells. This form of immunotherapy, called chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy, could be a life-saving treatment and provide tumor control lasting more than a decade.

Now, engineers at the University of Houston have found a way to determine which patients are more likely to respond to CAR T-cell therapy. This saves valuable time in treating the lymphomas most responsive to this form of immunotherapy. This is valuable knowledge because not all patients respond to treatment and some experience serious side effects.

To determine the best patient outlook, Navin Varadarajan, MD Anderson Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, studied the dynamic interactions between T cells and tumor cells. His findings were Journal of Clinical Investigationpoint to a relationship between a ligand molecule (CD58) on cancer cells and a protein (CD2) on T cells. They communicate with and activate CD2, turning it into a cancer cell killer.

“CD58, the ligand for CD2, is expressed at high levels in tumors from lymphoma patients who respond better to CAR T cell therapy. Cellular CD58 accelerates killing and serial killing,” reports Varadarajan.

Varadarajan and his partners at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center used the TIMING (Timelapse Imaging Microscopy In Nanowell Grids) method developed in Varadarajan’s lab at UH to study the patient’s infusion products and the tumors that make up the tumor. We profiled dynamic interactions between cells. TIMING is a high-throughput single-cell technique that fuses artificial intelligence with a nanowell imaging platform to simultaneously assess how individual cells migrate, activate, interact, die, and survive.

By investigating thousands of individual interactions between T cells and tumor cells, the research team identified a key interaction between CD2 and CD58. To bring the results back to the clinic, Dr. Sattva Neelapu of Varadarajan and MD Anderson stained the tumors obtained before starting treatment. In this way, the group found that patients whose tumors expressed CD58 were much more likely to respond to her CAR T-cell therapy compared to those whose tumors did not express CD58. I was able to show

Growth and Incubation at Technology Bridge

The University of Houston holds a patent on the TIMING process, and Varadarajan co-founded CellChorus to commercialize it. CellChorus is housed in his UH Technology Bridge, providing space for startups and spinouts from UH to facilitate their growth.

“We are very lucky to have Technology Bridge as an incubator space in Houston near the largest medical center in the country, and it offers unique access to medical centers that are difficult to replicate in most other places in the country,” said Varadarajan. We are offering

CellChorus now receives target cells from customers and performs TIMING tests to provide comprehensive kinetic analysis of single cells. Ultimately, we plan to put the technology in a box-like device and send it to clinicians so they can make their own assessments.

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Materials provided University of HoustonOriginal by Laurie Fickman. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


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