Dr Martin Pule, based at University College London, has been awarded a 4-year PhD studentship to investigate the potential of CAR T cell therapy in the treatment of osteosarcoma.

This pioneering research project will be led by Dr Pule in collaboration with Dr Sandra Strauss and Dr Karin Straathof at University College London.

As a specialist form of immunotherapy, CAR T cell therapy involves taking T cells from a patient’s blood and reprogramming them through genetic engineering so they are able to identify cancer cells.

Once reprogrammed, the cells are then returned to the patient’s blood to multiply, with the added ability to locate and attack cancer cells.

Dr Pule explains more below about his research project and how CAR T cells work:

CAR T cell therapy has been highly successful in treating blood cancers such as lymphoma and acute leukaemia, even when they are resistant to chemotherapy. It is hoped that this success can be mirrored when treating osteosarcoma.

What are T cells?

T cells are an important part of our immune system. They move around the body to locate and destroy infected cells. However, they are not naturally able to recognise cancer cells.

Dr Pule and his research team have previously modified T cells to recognise the GD2 molecule, which is present on the surface of cancer cells.

Modified T cells are able to kill solid tumour cells, but their effectiveness decreases quickly as the tumour becomes familiar with them. To tackle this issue, they now need to develop new GD2 CAR T cells that are programmed to be resistant to the tumour’s environment and remain active.

Aims of the project

With this funding, Dr Pule aims to:

  • Study biopsies from patients and learn about the tumour microenvironment
  • Develop a way to engineer GD2 CAR T cells that work within the microenvironment
  • Test new CAR T cells in tumour biopsies within advanced laboratory models and monitor the destruction of cancer cells

How could this project improve treatment options for osteosarcoma patients?

CAR T therapy has revolutionised the treatment of patients with other cancers, such as lymphoma and acute leukaemia, which have not responded to chemotherapy.

If successful in osteosarcoma, this approach could prove an effective treatment option with fewer long-term side-effects, including infertility and secondary cancers associated with combination chemotherapy.

Find out more about the research project below:

Find out more