White blood cells at the ready for chemo patients

Uniquest Limited

By LabOnline Staff
Tuesday, 06 December, 2016


Chemo

University of Queensland (UQ) researchers have developed a way to produce and administer white blood cells to cancer patients following chemotherapy — a process which typically depletes these patients of blood cells called neutrophils and, in doing so, lowers their immune systems.

“It exposes them [the patients] to infection and fever, which can lead to delays in treatment and reductions in chemo dose intensity,” said Professor Lars Nielsen, from UQ’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN).

According to Professor Nielsen, the treatment mostly currently used for chemotherapy-induced neutropenia (CIN) “involves an injection of granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF), which stimulates the patient’s own stem cells to expand and differentiate into neutrophils”.

However, he said, “G-CSF’s effectiveness relies on the number of stem cells in the patient’s bone marrow, which is significantly reduced after chemotherapy, and it takes time for the stem cells to recover and mature into white blood cells.”

Now, Professor Nielsen and his team have devised a method of producing a therapeutic dose of white blood cells in a typical transfusion bag. He said the method “avoids that ‘at risk’ period following treatment by extracting and separating stem cells from umbilical cord blood to produce a transfusion-ready therapeutic dose of white blood cells which can be administered to patients immediately after chemotherapy”.

The technology is based on research by Professor Nielsen, Dr Emma Palfreyman and Dr Nick Timmins, the latter of whom is currently based at Canadian regenerative medicine company CCRM. It will now progress towards the clinic following a licensing deal with CCRM, negotiated by UQ commercialisation company UniQuest.

“CCRM has demonstrated experience in fundamental stem cell science and the commercialisation of regenerative medicine, and we are delighted that they will take UQ’s research towards the clinic so that it can benefit patients,” said UniQuest CEO Dr Dean Moss.

CCRM’s president and CEO, Dr Michael May, said the centre is excited about the agreement with UQ and UniQuest.

“By combining the technology licensed from UQ with CCRM’s expertise and capabilities in the commercialisation of stem cell therapies, we believe we can provide a solution to this unmet clinical need and make a real difference to chemotherapy patients,” Dr May said.

Image courtesy of Phil and Pam Gradwell (to be) under CC BY 2.0

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