Advancing CAR-T cell therapy for extracranial solid paediatric cancers 

Childhood Cancer

Dr Klaartje Somers

Children's Cancer Institute, University of New South Wales


2023 - 2025


CAR T-cell immunotherapy is one of the most exciting cancer therapies to emerge in recent years, revolutionising the way some cancers are treated in adults and children. This treatment involves taking a patient’s own immune cells, growing them in a highly specialised clinical laboratory, reprogramming them to attack cancer cells, and then returning them to the patient. Importantly, these reprogrammed immune cells are designed to target cancer cells, without damage to healthy cells or tissue. For children in particular, minimising long-term side-effects from treatment has life-long benefits for quality of life.

CAR T-cell immunotherapy is currently only approved for use in paediatric and young adult patients with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia and adult patients with a particular type of lymphoma who have failed other treatments. More research is needed to extend the significant potential of CAR T-cell immunotherapy in solid cancers.

The research

In Australia, around 300 children are diagnosed with solid cancers, like neuroblastoma and sarcoma, each year. While survival rates for these diseases have improved over the past few decades, too many children still succumb to the disease, and for those who survive the intensive treatments can have lasting impacts on their quality of life.

Dr Klaartje Somers from Children’s Cancer Institute and Dr Deborah Meyran from Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, along with their teams, are investigating ways to overcome the challenges of treating solid tumours with CAR T-cell immunotherapy to design new treatment approaches for children with solid cancers. The team has already developed a new way of producing next-generation CAR T-cells that are more potent. In this project, the team will apply this method to produce CAR T-cells derived from blood samples from children with solid cancers and test them in combination with drugs that target other cells in the tumour environment that aid in its growth and spread.

The Impact

This research could pave the way for a more effective and less toxic way to treat solid childhood cancers. If the teams pre-clinical testing is successful, it could also have broader implications for CAR T-cell immunotherapy potentially revolutionising the treatment of other solid cancers in children and adults.


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