A team of doctors and scientists at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead are developing a new therapy for children who have bone tumours and brain tumours. This therapy, which is already being used to treat some patients with leukaemia, takes a patient’s own immune cells (T cells) and engineers them to recognise and kill tumour cells. By making some changes to the technology used for the leukaemia therapy, the team at the Children’s Hospital can instead target these other types of cancers, and are working toward opening a clinical trial to test the safety and feasibility of the strategy.
To engineer the T cells to recognise and kill tumour cells, a sample of the patient’s blood will be taken into the lab, and then cultured at body temperature in conditions that provide nutrients and allow them to expand in number. During a 12 day culture period, the T cells are gene modified with a “Chimeric Antigen Receptor”, or CAR molecule that can interact with proteins on the surface of the tumour cells. The CAR also contains a trigger to activate the T cells to attack any tumour cell that it encounters, once the CAR recognises the tumour protein. At the end of the culture period, the CAR T cells need to be frozen and stored, to be used some time later, at the optimal time in the clinical trial protocol for each individual patient, depending on the patient’s course through their treatment.
To freeze the CAR T cells, they are put into a specialised freezing solution, frozen in a Rate Controlled Freezer down to -80oC, and then transferred into an ultra-low storage freezer (below – 140oC) until they are needed for the patient. The combination of the specialised freezing solution and the use of a Rate Controlled Freezer ensures that the damaging effects of the freezing process on the living T cells is minimised, and that they will recover well when they are thawed for the patient.
The CAR T cell protocol for growing the cells and freezing the cells is done in a cleanroom lab and follows a strict protocol to maintain sterility and the potency of the CAR T cells. For this reason, the CAR T cell team have a need for a cleanroom dedicated Rate Controlled Freezer, so that the protocol can be streamlined to take the cells from the culture step and into frozen storage without interruption. Time delays and changes in temperature during this process all effect how well the CAR T cells will recover from the process when they are thawed for the patient.
The cost of a Rate Controlled Freezer is approx. $38,000. This is where you come in.
We are asking for support and donations to help raise funds for the purchase of the Rate Controlled Freezer. If you would like to contribute, you can make your donation here. The Navzad Memorial Foundation is aiming to reach this important goal in 2018.
We extend a heartfelt thank you to those who are able to support