Hope for transplant patients after world-first Queensland immunotherapy trial

Published: Comments:
Community Health & Wellness Science & Research

This is an archived copy of an article. It is online for informational purposes only.
The Coordinator of QIMR Berghofer’s Centre for Immunotherapy and Vaccine Development, Professor Rajiv Khanna.

Organ transplant patients who face a lifetime of medication to ward off viral infection – or the potentially deadly threat of drug-resistant infection – may have new hope following a world-first clinical trial that uses a patient’s own immune cells as the treatment.

The immunotherapy treatment involved taking blood from patients, effectively training their killer T (immune) cells to destroy the cytomegalovirus (CMV) and reinfusing the cells into sick patients.

QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute’s world-leading immunologist, Professor Rajiv Khanna, led the clinical trial, which treated 13 organ transplant patients with a potentially life-threatening cytomegalovirus infection using their own immune cells.

The Phase 1 clinical trial started in 2014 in conjunction with Associate Professor Scott Campbell at Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital and Professor Dan Chambers at Brisbane’s Prince Charles Hospital, as well as doctors at the Royal Adelaide Hospital.

Professor Khanna, who is also the coordinator of QIMR Berghofer’s Centre for Immunotherapy and Vaccine Development, developed the immunotherapy treatment by using killer T (immune) cells from patients and training them to recognise and destroy the virus.

He said the phase 1 clinical trial showed the T cell therapy for existing or drug-resistant cytomegalovirus was safe and had provided a clinical benefit to some patients.

Eleven patients showed improved symptoms following the immunotherapy, and some of those patients were able to reduce or stop taking anti-viral medication altogether.

“The patients we treated were quite sick from the complications caused by cytomegalovirus, which is an infection experienced by some organ transplant recipients,” Professor Khanna said.

Associate Professor Campbell said that typically, a patient who has had an organ transplant received drugs to protect them from cytomegalovirus.

“But taking those drugs long-term means that some patients can develop a drug-resistant strain of the virus, and develop cytomegalovirus-associated complications due to their weakened immune system,” Associate Professor Campbell said.

“The anti-viral drugs designed to prevent and treat cytomegalovirus also have many other unpleasant or dangerous side-effects that can lead to severe illness, and can even make it impossible to continue using the drug.”

Professor Chambers said the killer T cell immunotherapy may in future provide doctors with another option to treat very unwell patients.

“We believe the treatment has potentially saved the lives of some patients,” Professor Chambers said.

Professor Khanna said the group had now developed a new, expanded and improved version of the therapy, and planned to commence a clinical trial next year, in collaboration with several clinical centres around Australia.

He said the new version of the immunotherapy also aimed to treat other viral infections that are common in solid organ transplant patients.

QIMR Berghofer’s Director and CEO, Professor Frank Gannon, said the immunotherapy was produced in-house at the Institute’s cell manufacturing facility, Q-Gen Cell Therapeutics.

“These early results are extremely promising and we hope in future it will provide a new and routine way to treat transplant patients who become sick as a result of cytomegalovirus infection,” he said.

The QIMR Berghofer-led research has been published today in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases and was made possible with funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council.

The journal article is available online here: https://academic.oup.com/cid/advance-article/doi/10.1093/cid/ciy549/5049442

QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute :
PO Royal Brisbane Hospital, Brisbane, QLD, 4029, Brisbane
07 3845 3752
QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute
Showing 10+ recent articles for this business
Aspirin and similar drug use linked to lower endometrial cancer risk in overweight women 07 March 2019 | A study by QIMR Berghofer researchers has found that overweight and obese women who take aspirin at least once a week may reduce their risk of developing endometrial cancer (cancer of the womb). More information...
Safer bone marrow transplants for blood cancer patients a step closer 15 February 2019 | Queensland researchers have conducted Australia’s first clinical trial using genetically engineered immune cells to make bone marrow transplantation for blood cancer safer. More information...
New study finds hysterectomies reduce the risk of ovarian cancer in some women 12 February 2019 | A new study by QIMR Berghofer researchers has found women who suffer from endometriosis or uterine fibroids and who undergo hysterectomies have a significantly lower risk of developing ovarian cancer than those... More information...
Australia’s melanoma rates once again highest in the world 07 February 2019 | Australia has regained the unenviable title of having the world’s highest rates of invasive melanoma. More information...
Peak health bodies recommend new approach to sunscreen use 25 January 2019 | The peak bodies responsible for sun safety advice in Australia and New Zealand have adopted a new policy on sunscreen use, recommending that people apply it daily as part of a regular morning routine. More information...
Study gives hope for preventing life-threatening viral infections in transplant patients 18 January 2019 | Australian researchers have made a breakthrough in understanding how a common herpes virus reactivates and causes life-threatening complications in patients with compromised immune systems. More information...
Queensland scientists create functioning human muscle in a dish 10 December 2018 | QIMR Berghofer researchers have created functioning miniature human skeletal muscle – a move that will accelerate research into muscle disease and treatments. More information...
Discovery holds promise for a new oesophageal cancer screening test 04 December 2018 | One of Australia’s most deadly cancers could in future be detected earlier, and with a simple blood test, thanks to research from QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute. More information...
QIMR Berghofer helps map the genetic makeup of disease-spreading mosquito 22 November 2018 | QIMR Berghofer scientists have helped map the most complete genetic picture of the potentially deadly Aedes aegypti mosquito. More information...
Clinical trial finds new immunotherapy improves MS symptoms 20 November 2018 | A world-first clinical trial of a new cellular immunotherapy for multiple sclerosis (MS) has found that it improved symptoms and quality of life for the majority of patients. More information...

comments powered by Disqus

All articles submitted by third parties or written by My Sunshine Coast come under our Disclaimer / Terms of Service