A new study examines how engineered immune cells can be used in cancer treatments. These cells can overcome physical barriers that let the patient’s immune system fight cancer tumors, Science Daily reports.

These researchers are working to engineer the T cells crucial in immunotherapy cancer treatments. In immunotherapy, a patient’s immune system is used to fight cancer. T cells are white blood cells that help protect from invader cells.

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“The tumor is sort of like an obstacle course, and the T cell has to run the gauntlet to reach the cancer cells,” said Paolo Provenzano, the senior author of the study. “These T cells get into tumors, but they just can’t move around well, and they can’t go where they need to go before they run out of gas and are exhausted.”

When engineered correctly, the T cells can be made more fit to overcome barriers to fighting tumors. If the cells can recognize and get to the cancer cells, they can help destroy the tumor.

“Using a cell engineering approach to fight cancer is a relatively new field,” Provenzano said. “It allows for a very personalized approach with applications for a wide array of cancers. We feel we are expanding a new line of research to look at how our own bodies can fight cancer. This could have a big impact in the future.”

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