Lili Yang

Immunotherapies have revolutionized cancer treatment by harnessing the body’s own immune system to attack cancer cells and halt tumor growth. However, these therapies often need to be tailored to each individual patient, slowing down the treatment process and resulting in a hefty price tag that could soar well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars per patient.

To tackle these limitations, MIMG Faculty member Lili Yang and UCLA researchers have developed a new, clinically guided method to engineer more powerful immune cells called invariant natural killer T cells, or iNKT cells, that can be used for an “off-the-shelf” cancer immunotherapy in which immune cells from a single cord-blood donor can be used to treat multiple patients.

Dr. Yang and team share that no “off-the-shelf” cell therapy has ever been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA. “With this new technology, not only have we shown a high output of iNKT cells, but we’ve also proven that the CAR-equipped iNKT cells don’t lose their tumor-fighting efficacy after being frozen and thawed, which is a key requirement for the widespread distribution of a universal cell product. We’re extremely excited that this technology has a potential broad application to target a range of blood cancers, solid tumors and other conditions such as autoimmune diseases.”

Read more about this novel technology in Nature Biotechnology