The past years have witnessed spectacular advances in the field of immunotherapy based on engineered chimeric antigen receptors (CAR) and development on the immune effector cells of specific receptors able to recognise and kill cancer cells.
The seminal study published in 2011 by Prof. Carl Junes group in Philadelphia, USA, announcing the complete remission of B-cell leukemia by transfusion of autologous T-lymphocytes engineered to express a 3rd generation CAR-CD19 (CAR-T cell)(Porter et al.; N Engl J Med 2011) prompted researchers to reconsider the possibilities offered by the immune system cells engineering. As a result, T-cell immunotherapy opened a new area of research in the field of onco-immunology, and has made great progress so far. Over 30 clinical studies based on CAR constructs started in 2013 only (Han et al., 2013). Besides its applications in the treatment of leukemia, the CAR technology can be adapted and used for treating solid tumors, although this is much more challenging, mainly due to fewer available target antigens, low T-cell traffic in the tumour and decreased cytotoxicity in the tumor microenvironment. Based on a revolutionary concept, CAR technology brings cancer therapy to a new level of efficacy.
CAR-NK is the first Romanian project that advances the engineering of immune system cells for cancer treatment by creating CAR-anti CD19 within the Natural killer (NK) cells, which are less studied for this kind of applications, but equally versatile in the treatment of malignancies, thus aiming to bring Romania among the European countries with innovation-development and treatment capacities in the field of onco-immunology.