Maria Pia Morelli, MD, PhD, on Investigating TROP2-Targeting CAR-NK Therapy in GI, Breast, Ovarian Cancers


The assistant professor at MD Anderson Cancer Center discussed ongoing trials at MD Anderson and the TROP2 target for cell therapy.

“We are exploring NK CAR which, at least in hematological malignancy, is shown to have less side effects than a CAR-T, less neurological side effects, less CRS, so definitely seems to have a safer profile, and to be just as active. And then in the case of pancreatic cancer and ovarian cancer, we are exploring a different way of administration. So instead of the usual IV administration, we are injecting the cells directly into the abdomen in the peritoneum. From our preclinical model, this approach showed very promising results. So, we felt comfortable to use it in terms of safety but also activity... this is a study that is up and running.”

While chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy for hematological malignancies remains the main, and only approved, mode of cell therapy in oncology, steam is picking up in research and investigations into other types of cell therapy, including solid tumors. Solid tumors have so far been a challenging type of cancer to address with CAR T-cell therapy, with barriers including heterogeneity within tumors, immunosuppression within the tumor microenvironment, and more specialized considerations pertaining to the type of cancer.

CGTLive spoke with Maria Pia Morelli, MD, PhD, assistant professor, department of gastrointestinal (GI) medical oncology, division of cancer medicine, MD Anderson Cancer Center, The University of Texas, to learn more about kinds of research and trials she and the center are investigating. She touched on the important consideration of selecting targets that will spare healthy tissue and discussed a program using natural killer cell therapy to target Trop2 for gastrointestinal, breast, and ovarian cancers. MD Anderson has initiated a couple of trials (NCT06066424; NCT05922930) with this program.

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