The David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MITThe David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

National Cancer Institute Cancer Center

Science + Engineering... Conquering Cancer Together

Cell-based Therapy Squeezes into Human Trials

CellSqueeze’s microfluidic channels are etched on silicon chips and sealed with a glass layer. Courtesy of SQZ Biotech

SQZ Biotech announced FDA acceptance of its investigational new drug (IND) application for SQZ-PBMC-HPV, paving the way for the first human trial of one of its cell-based therapies. SQZ-PBMC-HPV targets HPV-positive tumors, including cancers of the head and neck and reproductive organs.

Cell-based cancer vaccines enable the reprogramming of a patient’s own antigen-presenting cells to activate the immune system against cancer. So far, most versions are based on antigen-presenting cells called dendritic cells, but challenges specific to those cells have severely limited clinical translation.

In this case, the researchers overcame those hurdles by using peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) coupled with the CellSqueeze device, essentially a microfluidic vise that squeezes a cell to open up a temporary hole in the cell membrane through which materials can be inserted into the cell. The device then releases the cell and sends it on its way unharmed.

Founded by KI members Robert Langer and Darrell Irvine, with MIT collaborator Klavs Jensen, SQZ is headed by former Langer Lab postdoc and CellSqueeze inventor Armon Sharei. With funding from the Koch Institute Frontier Research Program, the researchers conducted proof-of-concept studies that demonstrated the potential of both the device and a novel strategy using B-cells (one type of PBMC) for cell-based cancer therapies. Watch Sharei present this novel cancer therapy and discuss the impact of Frontier support, as part of the Koch Institute’s with/in/sight series.