Jun 5, 2021

Fate offers glimpse at ‘natural killer’ cell therapy for leukemia

Posted by in category: biotech/medical

Fate Therapeutics on Thursday reported new results from two early-stage studies testing two types of experimental leukemia treatments that use natural killer cells, an emerging form of cancer immunotherapy.

Research into NK cell treatments remains early, and the field has significant hurdles still to overcome, like proving how potent their effects are and how long they last. It’s unclear what role they’ll play in cancer care. But encouraging signs are emerging, most notably from a lymphoma treatment developed by the MD Anderson Cancer Center.

The field’s progress has led to the launch of multiple startups and elevated the profile of biotechs like Fate and Nkarta Therapeutics, the most advanced, publicly traded companies developing the technology. NK cells are “becoming a very important tool and cell type within this fight against cancer,” said CRISPR Therapeutics CEO Sam Kulkarni in an interview after the biotech formed a broad partnership with Nkarta last week.

Both Fate and Nkarta have begun with acute myeloid leukemia, for which there is a history of “naked,” or non-engineered donor, NK cells being successfully used to treat patients with the disease. The biotechs aim to prove engineered versions that are mass-produced as “off-the-shelf” therapies can be just as effective or better than NK cell transplants.

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