Providence and Agonox Researchers Publish Groundbreaking Tumor Killing T-cell Research

July 13, 2018

Researchers at the Earle A. Chiles Research Institute, or EACRI, and Agonox, Inc. have published groundbreaking work concerning tumor-killing T cells which could greatly improve the immune response in cancer patients – leading to successful treatment of tumors.

The two groups of scientists worked together to develop methods for the identification, isolation and expansion of tumor-killing T cells in cancer patients. The research, entitled “Co-expression of CD39 and CD103 identifies tumor-reactive CD8 CD8 T cells in human solid tumors” has published in the online journal Nature Communications.

Agonox, Inc. is a Portland-based biotechnology company that grew out of the EACRI at Providence Cancer Institute. 

“This manuscript highlights the importance of collaborative research between academics and biotech, which led to the discovery of pinpointing the body’s own defense against cancer, tumor-specific T cells,” said Andrew Weinberg, Ph.D., chief and Judith Ann Hartmann Endowed Chair of the Laboratory of Basic Immunology at the Earle A. Chiles Research Institute, located in the Robert W. Franz Cancer Center, and president/chief scientific officer of Agonox, Inc.

“The work shows that patients with a higher percentage of these T cells within their tumor have increased survival after conventional cancer treatments. The ability to enrich and expand these tumor-specific T cells in culture, free from the immunosuppressive elements within tumors, could greatly enhance therapeutic responses in cancer patients receiving autologous T-cell infusions.”

The published research represents nearly five years of work overseen by Weinberg with lead researchers Thomas Duhen, Ph.D., Agonox, and Rebekka Duhen, Ph.D., EACRI. It will add to the growing body of knowledge at Providence Cancer Institute, which is known internationally for its work in immunotherapy.

“Immuno-oncology is the cornerstone of our research portfolio at Providence Cancer Institute,” said Walter J. Urba, M.D., Ph.D., director, EACRI, Robert W. Franz Cancer Center. “Our focus on immunotherapy has aided the development of a number of immunotherapy agents for the treatment of patients with cancer. This new discovery represents a novel approach for patient-specific, autologous cellular therapy, one we plan to test in future clinical trials.”

Agonox will work with clinicians and researchers at Providence Cancer Institute to fully optimize these new techniques for future clinical trials. 

“We hope to incorporate this new discovery into our procedures for generating personalized T-cell products for the treatment of patients with cancer,” said Eric Tran, Ph.D., assistant member at the EACRI and leader of the Antitumor T-cell Response Laboratory.