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In First, Scientists Use CRISPR for Personalized Cancer Treatment

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A small clinical trial has shown that researchers can use CRISPR gene editing to alter immune cells so that they will recognize mutated proteins specific to a person’s tumours. Those cells can then be safely set loose in the body to find and destroy their target.

It is the first attempt to combine two hot areas in cancer research: gene editing to create personalized treatments, and engineering immune cells called T cells so as to better target tumours. The approach was tested in 16 people with solid tumours, including in the breast and colon.

“It is probably the most complicated therapy ever attempted in the clinic,” says study co-author Antoni Ribas, a cancer researcher and physician at the University of California, Los Angeles. “We’re trying to make an army out of a patient’s own T cells.”

The results were published inNatureand presented at the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer meeting in Boston, Massachusetts on 10 November.

Tailored treatments

Ribas and his colleagues began by sequencing DNA from blood samples and tumour biopsies, to look for mutations that…

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