In this edition of The Onco’Zine Brief Peter Hofland, Ph.D. talks with Armon Sharei, Ph.D. Chief Executive Officer of SQZ Biotech, about the development and manufacturing of cell therapies.
Traditionally, the foundation of cancer treatment included surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.

But over the last few decades, targeted therapies —drugs that specifically target molecular changes seen primarily on cancer cells—have become a standard treatment for many cancers.
In addition, over the past several years, immunotherapies—therapies that are designed to use the power of a patient’s own immune system to attack cancer, have emerged as a new treatment.
One of the rapidly emerging immunotherapy approaches is called adoptive cell transfer. It is based on collecting and using patients’ own immune cells to treat their cancer.

Although there are several types of these therapies, one approach that has advanced the furthest in clinical development is called Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cell therapy or CAR T-cell therapy.

In 2017, as the result of the remarkable responses seen in some patients—both children and adults— two CAR T-cell therapies were approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States.

One treatment was approved for children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and the other for adults with advanced lymphomas. But given the unique and personalized approach, the Manufacturing of cell therapies is expensive and complex. One reason is that because CAR T-cell therapies are hyper-personalized – using a patient’s own T-Cells – it may take 3 – 4 weeks, and sometimes even longer – to manufacture such a personalized and unique treatment option.

And the manufacturing comes with a high price tag. So, scientists started to look for alternatives.

Scientists at SQZ Biotech – a privately-held clinical-stage company are developing transformative cell therapy candidates for patients with cancer and other serious diseases.

Hofland talks with Sharei about SQZ Biotech’s cell engineering platform which was named as a top 10 world-changing technology by Scientific American in 2014.

SQZ Biotech’s approach could provide treatment options for patients across many different diseases, including, but not limited, to cancer and hematological malignancies.

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