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New way to mass-produce natural cancer-killing cells offers hope for patients

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“NK cells show promise for cancer therapy,” said Dan Kaufman, M.D., Ph.D., of the Stem Cell Institute, University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. “They are part of the innate immune system and exhibit potent antitumor activity without the need for donor matching and prior treatment.

“Moreover, the derivation of NK cells from pluripotent stem cells could provide an unlimited source of lymphocytes for ‘off-the-shelf’ therapy.”

Dr. Kaufman was the lead investigator on the study that included colleagues from UM as well as from the Integrated Center of Cellular Therapy and Regenerative Medicine, St. Anne's University Hospital Brno, Brno, Czech Republic; and the University of Texas, Houston.

“Human NK cells have been used to treat patients with refractory malignancies, but a major hindrance to expanded use has been the inefficiency of production,” said Anthony Atala, M.D., Editor of STEM CELLS Translational Medicine and Director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine. “The current study has identified a two-stage culture system to efficiently produce the cells in a manner more suitable to clinical translation than previous methods.”