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New Diagnostic Imaging Tool Monitors Fate of Cell Therapies in Cancer Patients

T cell therapies continue to be a promising new technology in the treatment of cancer. However, after the cells have been transferred to the patient, their fate is most often unknown.

In a new pilot study led by Eric Ahrens, PhD, professor of radiology at UC San Diego School of Medicine, researchers describe a novel tool for non-invasively monitoring the survival of a cancer cell therapy in patients. In their method, a fluorine-based nanoemulsion agent is used to ‘tag’ cells prior to patient infusion. This tag then enables magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) detection of a cell therapy product (i.e. engineered T cells) post-delivery. 

In the study, published June 20, 2023 in Journal for Immunotherapy of Cancer, the method was applied to a patient with head and neck cancer receiving tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte immunotherapy. Using this technology, they were able to quantify the fraction of cells that had survived 22 days after they had been transferred to the patient.

This technology opens the door for real-time monitoring of cellular graft health in any type of adoptive cell therapy. The ability to non-invasively assay cell graft survival could help explain why some patients respond or do not respond to the treatment, and also provide an important tool for evaluating the success of new cell therapies in the development stage. Thus the findings are relevant to developers of cytotherapies and clinicians alike.

Read the full paper: DOI:10.1136/jitc-2023-007015

Nicole Mlynaryk