TC BioPharm Says It Aims To Deliver A Big Breakthrough In Cancer Treatments

Approximately 1.7 million new cancer cases are reported every year in the United States. As the nation’s second leading cause of death after heart disease, there are around 600,000 cancer-related deaths each year.

While those numbers look grim, medical breakthroughs in the past decades have made a huge impact, bringing mortality rates down 27% from 2001 to 2020. Thanks to better diagnostics and more targeted treatments, cancer is being detected earlier and treated more effectively.

Additionally, a breakthrough could be coming from TC BioPharm Ltd. TCBP, a clinical-stage biotech that reports it is developing a safer, more affordable CAR T therapy for both solid tumor and blood-borne cancers. Here’s an overview of the best cancer-fighting tools doctors have today and how TC BioPharm hopes its cell therapy could change the game.

The Most Important Advances In The Current Standard Of Care For Cancer

On the diagnostics side, advances in biomarker testing let doctors check for genes, proteins and other biomarkers that can tell them which patients are at risk for which cancers and how they might respond to different treatments. 

Armed with that information, they’re better able to help patients take preventative steps before they get cancer, recommend more frequent screenings for at-risk patients to catch cancer earlier and get each individual patient on the best possible treatment plan as quickly as possible.

On the treatment side, the standards of care include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery and, more recently, immunotherapy. 

Chemotherapy drugs like Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.’s BMY Taxol circulate through the bloodstream and kill cells that are in the process of dividing into two cells. By circulating through the entire body and stopping replicating cells, they can stop (or slow) the growth of cancer cells anywhere they’re found. 

What they can’t do is differentiate between cancer cells and normal cells. That’s why side effects can be severe and debilitating, causing hair loss and general damage to the healthy tissue throughout a patient’s body. It can kill the cancer, but it also wreaks havoc on everything else in its path. 

Meanwhile, radiation therapies like those offered by Elekta EKTAY stop the growth of cancer by using high doses of radiation to damage their DNA. However, like chemotherapy, radiation will damage anything in its path, not just cancer cells. There’s also a limit to how much radiation the body can safely receive over the course of a lifetime so patients might need to stop treatment before the therapy has finished killing the cancer. 

Immunotherapies May Offer Safer, More Targeted Treatments

TC BioPharm’s pipeline of cell therapies are all forms of immunotherapy — a relatively young field of cancer treatments that uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer. The overarching goal with any immunotherapy is to solve the problem of nonspecific treatments that kill healthy cells along with the cancer cells.

By better targeting the treatment to just the harmful cells, the drugs can end up being safer, more effective and typically come with milder side effects.

Among those immunotherapies, one of the most promising approaches has reportedly been CAR-T cell therapy. Short for chimeric antigen receptors, CAR-T cells are specialized white blood cells that have been genetically modified to more easily recognize cancer cells as foreign invaders.

This modification is key because cancer isn’t like other diseases where a foreign virus or bacteria infects the body. It’s the patient’s own cells mutating into cancerous cells. That makes it tricky for the immune system to recognize cancer as a disease because they look a lot like the patient’s own cells.

However, some key limitations to CAR-T cell therapy have made it difficult to scale and difficult to use long term. First, there’s the problem of antigen escape. Because CAR-T cells are modified to look for a specific antigen, once the cancer evolves to stop producing that particular antigen, the CAR-T cells can no longer target them. 

Second, there’s the issue of scalability. Because the therapy relies on antigens that differentiate between a body’s own cells and foreign substances, using donor cells runs the risk of triggering a graft-versus-host-disease (GVHD) in which the body rejects the treatment and launches an immune response at the wrong thing.

As a result, manufacturing these therapies is expensive, making them unaffordable for many cancer patients.

TC BioPharm Wants To Develop More Effective, More Affordable Immunotherapy

To solve those limitations of this promising new approach to treating cancer, TC BioPharm says it is using gamma delta T (GDT) cells. Instead of targeting a single antigen, GDT cells target a broader range of molecular differences on the cell surface.

As a result, cancer can’t escape these T cells through mutation as easily as it can CAR-T cells. 

Even more promising: GDT cells aren’t scouting for foreign substances. They look for defects and abnormalities more broadly, which means it’s possible to use donor-derived GDT cells without the high risk of triggering GVHD. 

That means taking healthy donor cells, multiplying them in the lab and producing large batches of off-the-shelf cell therapies. Manufacturing at scale could slash the cost of production, allowing the company to offer a much more affordable cell therapy option to patients — and one that cancer is less likely to develop a resistance to. 

Image by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

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