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Forced into battle

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Science  29 May 2020:
Vol. 368, Issue 6494, pp. 930-933
DOI: 10.1126/science.368.6494.930

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Summary

Therapies that harness the immune system to fight tumors have transformed cancer treatment in the past decade. Now, a new type of immunotherapy is on the rise: bispecific antibodies. The drug is a molecular rope that tethers T cells to tumor cells so the immune warriors will attack. At one recent cancer meeting, researchers reported that a bispecific antibody shrank fast-growing non-Hodgkin lymphoma tumors in 46 of 124 patients in whom other treatments had failed. Some of those people had previously had their own immune cells altered to attack the cancer. Those engineered cells, known as chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells, have achieved remarkable results in some cancers. But CAR T cells must be prepared for each cancer patient, a process that is costly and for some very sick patients, takes too long. A major advantage of bispecific antibodies is that they can be mass-produced in advance. Variants are being tested in dozens of clinical trials, in the hope they can rival or surpass the engineered cells.

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