Sara Mangsbo is programming T-cells in the fight against cancer at the DDDP

Published: 2019-12-17

SciLifeLab researcher Sara Mangsbo (UU) and her team has, together with SciLifeLab’s Drug Discovery and Development Platform (DDDP), developed a unique platform capable of programming specialized T-cells in the fight against cancer.

Using the immune system to attack tumor cells is one of the hottest areas in cancer drug discovery research at the moment. Immune therapies are already on the market and the so-called check-point blocking therapies (CPI) have transformed the treatment for melanoma patients with advanced disease. 

These treatments have fewer side effects than traditional treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy, and generally work well for about 20-40% of the patients. Unfortunately, a large group of patients do not respond very well and in some cancers the percentage of non-responders is very high. Naturally, there is a great need for improvement of these promising therapies.

T cells are the key anti-tumor mediators in our body as these cells can adapt with the tumor. For this to happen, it is key to initiate a starting point for adaptive immune recognition. CPI therapies work to improve an existing immune response and have become very successful in the clinic in cancer indications/patients where a high mutational burden in the tumor is already priming and attracting T cells to infiltrate the tumor. The CPI:s deactivate the brake in the engine of our natural immune response.

Sara Mangsbo entered the Drug Discovery and Development Platform (DDDP) at SciLifeLab in 2017 with a project designed to turn the patients’ bodies into T cell generating factories. She has developed a unique platform with a cost and time-reducing approach that can prime T cells to enable their recognition of a tumor cell. 

The drug candidate co-developed by Sara Mangsbo and DDDP can be adapted and fine-tuned for different patients to “drive” the immune response, i.e. to use the gas pedal, for more personalized therapies that can hopefully prevent relapses.

Sara was also one of fifteen researchers awarded with the 2019 Uppsala University Attractive Innovation Project Awards.