University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center Launches Biotech Collaboration to Discover Cellular Immunotherapies for Head and Neck Cancer

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Novel therapies identified through the collaboration will be manufactured at the cell therapy facility at the Wesley Center for Immunotherapy – one of only a few of its kind in the nation.

CLEVELAND - A strategic collaboration between University Hospitals (UH) Seidman Cancer Center and TScan Therapeutics, a biotech company in Boston, aims to advance cell therapy options for patients with head and neck cancer. The collaboration pairs the state-of-the-art cell therapy production facility at Wesley Center for Immunotherapy, part of UH Seidman Cancer Center, with TScan’s novel discovery platform for cell therapy targets.
 
“We are excited to collaborate with TScan and leverage their technology to better define the tumor antigens that are presented on the surface of tumor cells. With this information, we can then genetically engineer a patient's own T cells to recognize and kill these tumor cells with high specificity,” said Quintin Pan, PhD, Deputy Director for Research, Dr. Lester E. Coleman, Jr. Chair in Cancer Research and Therapeutics, UH Seidman Cancer Center.
 
Due to the location of head and neck cancers, standard treatments, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery, can significantly impair a patient’s ability to eat, swallow, or breath. Cellular immunotherapy is an emerging treatment option that may avoid these complications and improve patient quality of life.
 
The treatment involves engineering a patient’s own T cells, a type of immune cell, to attack the cancer, but a leading challenge has been in selectively targeting tumor cells while avoiding healthy cells to ensure robust clinical activity.
 
Leveraging Unique Resources
 
As part of the collaboration, UH Seidman Cancer Center is providing TScan with clinical specimens, both blood and tumor, from patients with head and neck cancer. TScan will then use their computational algorithm that leverages RNA sequencing datasets to predict which neo-antigens will be presented on the surface of tumor cells.
 
Once a new antigen is identified, researchers at the UH Seidman-Wesley Center for Immunotherapy will engineer a patient’s T cells to recognize the antigen and reintroduce the modified cells into the patient’s body. The Wesley Center is uniquely positioned to lead this work, having recently completed an expansion with a generous $10 million gift from the Wesley family that more than tripled their on-site cell therapy space.
 
“The Wesley Center for Immunotherapy is one of a handful of cellular therapy production laboratories set in an academic institution where we can culture and expand these engineered T cells in-house,” said Dr. Pan.
 
Expanding Treatment Options
 
The initial phase of the collaboration will evaluate specimens from roughly 30 patients and is limited to those with HPV-positive head and neck cancers, one of only a few cancers increasing in incidence over the last decade. “Incidence of HPV-positive head and neck cancer has increased by three-fold over the last 10 years,” said Dr. Pan.
 
UH Seidman Cancer Center and TScan will share joint ownership of intellectual property developed for novel tumor antigens discovered using the patient specimens.
 
“Our hope is that with the new antigen discovery platform from TScan, we can leverage our internal cell therapy production assets to expand and improve treatment options for our head and neck cancer patients,” said Dr. Pan.

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