These T-cells were shown, in the lab, to kill lung, skin, blood, colon, breast, bone, prostate, ovarian, kidney, and cervical cancer cells while ignoring healthy cells.
‘Cancer-targeting through MR1-restricted T-cells is an exciting new frontier as a single type of T-cell could be capable of destroying various types of cancers across the population.’
T-cell therapies for cancer - where immune cells are removed, modified, and returned to the patient's blood to seek and destroy cancer cells - are the latest paradigm in cancer treatments.
The most widely-used therapy, known as CAR-T, is personalized to each patient but targets only a few types of cancers and has not been successful for solid tumors.
According to researchers, it was "highly unusual" to find a TCR with such broad cancer specificity, and this raised the prospect of "universal" cancer therapy.
"We hope this new TCR may provide us with a different route to target and destroy a wide range of cancers in all individuals," said Professor Andrew Sewell, lead author on the study and an expert in T-cells from Cardiff University's School of Medicine.
This TCR recognizes a molecule present on the surface of a wide range of cancer cells as well as in many of the body's normal cells but, remarkably, is able to distinguish between healthy cells and cancerous ones, killing only the latter.
The study describes a unique TCR that can recognize many types of cancer via a single HLA-like molecule called MR1.
Unlike HLA, MR1 does not vary in the human population - meaning it is a hugely attractive new target for immunotherapies.
The researchers said it offers "exciting opportunities for pan-cancer, pan-population" immunotherapies not previously thought possible.