According to The Asahi Shimbun, Japan’s first clinical trial using induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells to treat cancer patients is expected to start in August, raising hopes for a breakthrough against the leading cause of death in the country.
Chiba University, Riken, a government-affiliated research institute, and other entities announced the plan.
Clinical trials are a required procedure in gaining regulatory approval for the manufacture and marketing of a medical product and device.
In the trial, patients with cancer of the head and neck will receive injections of immune cells known as natural killer T (NKT) cells derived from iPS cells.
NKT cells have the ability to attack cancer cells and activate other immune cells. But they are extremely difficult to put into practical use because they make up only 0.01 percent of blood.
Under the project, researchers will generate iPS cells based on NKT cells taken from blood samples of healthy individuals.
After increasing the volume of iPS cells, they will transform them into NKT cells to treat the cancer patients.
Researchers say creating iPS cells first will make it easier and more efficient to generate a huge amount of iPS cells that can remain in a stable condition.
Then, the iPS-derived NKT cells will be injected into an artery near the cancerous area in the patient.
The clinical trial, which will last for two years, will involve four to 18 patients whose cancers have returned after standard care, such as surgery and chemotherapy.
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