T-cells “à la CAR-T(e)” – Genetically engineering T-cell response against cancer
Abstract The last decade will be remembered as the dawn of the immunotherapy era during which we have witnessed the approval by regulatory agencies of genetically engineered CAR T-cells and of checkpoint inhibitors for cancer treatment. Understandably, T-lymphocytes represent the essential player in these approaches. These cells can mediate impressive tumor regression in terminally-ill cancer patients. Moreover, they are amenable to genetic engineering to improve their function and specificity. In the present review, we will give an overview of the most recent developments in the field of T-cell genetic engineering including TCR-gene transfer and CAR T-cells strategies. We will also elaborate on the development of other types of genetic modifications to enhance their anti-tumor immune response such as the use of co-stimulatory chimeric receptors (CCRs) and unconventional CARs built on non-antibody molecules. Finally, we will discuss recent advances in genome editing and synthetic biology applied to T-cell engineering and comment on the next challenges ahead.