Richard James, PhD, on the Potential of Engineered Plasma Cells in Cancer


The associate professor at the University of Washington, and principal investigator at Seattle Children's Research Institute discussed results from a leukemia mouse model.

“I think the biggest implications are that B-cells producing therapeutic proteins could be a new [type of] cell therapy that will be—in the midterm anyway—coming to clinical trials. These types of results show that it’s possible that that'll happen.”

Thus far, engineered cell therapies have demonstrated promise in the field of cancer treatment mainly in the form of chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapies. Although, these early successes may have only scratched the surface of the many possible approaches to treating cancer offered by the modality of engineered cell therapy.

The lab of Richard James, PhD, an associate professor at the University of Washington and a principal investigator at Seattle Children's Research Institute, is currently examining the potential of treating cancer by engineering a different blood cell type: plasma cells. This year at the American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy (ASGCT) 2023 Annual Meeting, held May 16-20, in Los Angeles, California, members of the lab presented findings from their preclinical research in this area. Of particular note were results presented from a study on the potential of plasma cells that have been engineered to secrete a bi-specific T-cell engager with the intention of treating acute leukemias.

In an interview conducted during the conference, CGTLive™ spoke with James about his lab’s research. He went over how the engineered plasma cell approach works and gave an overview of the key results presented and their implications. He noted that the engineered plasma cells are expected to migrate to the bone marrow, where they will reside for a long period of time and continuously secrete the therapeutic proteins. James pointed out that because plasma cells can sometimes survive for over 20 years, this approach may allow patients to experience benefit for a very long time without the need for redosing. James also emphasized that this study serves as a proof-of-concept for treating other types of cancers with similar approaches.

1. Seattle Children’s Researchers Share Progress at American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy Annual Meeting. Website. Seattle Children’s Research Institute. Accessed October 12, 2023.

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