Week 0: Introduction

Mar 18, 2022

Hello! I’m Sidharth Raghavan, and over the next ten weeks, I will be researching different ways to build “Off-the-Shelf” CAR T-cells.

I was first introduced to CAR T-cells during a lecture series at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in 2020. Learning about the discoveries that paved the way for this groundbreaking treatment inspired me to write an article, called Breaking Boundaries: CAR T-cell Therapy, for my blog Brooklyn Musings. As I wrote and researched for my article, I quickly realized that CAR T-cells are immensely powerful; however, there are a few obstacles, notably its limited applications and its immense cost. Furthermore, hundreds of thousands of people are diagnosed with cancer each year and must suffer through chemotherapy and radiation treatments. I can’t help feeling that there must be more effective and less taxing therapies. I’m motivated to study CAR T-cells because it could provide millions of people with an effective alternative to existing cancer treatments.

What is CAR T-cell Therapy?

Immunotherapies, treatments that help a person’s immune system fight against cancer, are weapons that are transforming the field of cancer research. One immunotherapy known as CAR (chimeric antigen receptor) T-cell therapy is interesting because it could be applied to a variety of cancers and treat patients more effectively than the existing chemotherapy and radiation therapies. CAR proteins are unique because they are programmed via an antibody to recognize a specific cancer cell, precisely the cancer cell’s antigen. CAR T-cells are built by extracting T-cells from the patient’s body and injecting them with the DNA code for a specific CAR protein. Now, when introduced in a cancer patient, the CAR T-cells can produce enough warriors to recognize and fight off the tumor

What are “Off-the-Shelf” CAR T-cells?

CAR T-cell therapy works on cancer patients with certain types of tumors such as Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. However, CAR T-cell therapy is expensive, and it can take weeks to create the therapy. In making CAR T-cells scalable and more accessible, one method that appears elusive is designing CAR T-cells that target common tumors. Doctors could make a CAR T-cell ‘cocktail’ for their patients. However, there are numerous problems with this approach, including the risk of a large and potentially life-threatening immune reaction. The human body’s immune system rejects foreign bodies, so it could also reject the foreign CAR T-cells. The development of “off-the-shelf” CAR T-cells would be instrumental in transforming the accessibility and effectiveness of CAR T-cell therapy.

Click here to view my full proposal.

Thanks for reading – stay tuned for more updates!

Sidharth Raghavan

2 Replies to “Week 0: Introduction”

  1. Amber A. says:

    This is such an interesting topic, Sid! I know how passionate you are about the research that you’re doing so I’m very excited to see what you come up with in the coming weeks. Keep up the good work!

  2. Luc M. says:

    This is such interesting research Sid! Discovering how Car T-cells could revolutionize the way we treat cancer and alleviate the pain patients go through during chemotherapy and radiation treatments is truly fascinating and enlightening. I am so excited to read what you discover about unlocking the potential of Car T-cells and different ways to build “Off-the-Shelf” CAR T-cells!

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