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Juno Therapeutics lab
Inside Juno Therapeutics’ lab, employees work with a patient’s genetically engineered T-cells and prepare them for infusion. Photo: Juno Therapeutics.

A study published today on a Juno Therapeutics immunotherapy treatment for blood cancers shows that the drug and others like it could be more effective and less toxic than other treatments.

The treatment, known as JCAR014, is unique because it contains a one-to-one ratio of helper and killer CAR T cells, immune cells from the patient that have been genetically engineered to target and eradicate cancer cells. It was used in conjunction with lymphodepletion, a chemotherapy treatment that makes the body more receptive to CAR T cells.

Researchers were able to adjust the dosing of the each element of the treatment across the patients studied to determine the most beneficial approach.

More than half of patients who received two supplemental drugs and an intermediate dose of JCAR014 had a complete response to the drug, meaning they are now in remission with no trace of the disease.

The sample also had a high overall response rate (82 percent) and low neurotoxicity side effects (18 percent).

Dr. Cameron Turtle, a researcher at Fred Hutch and one of the study leaders, said in a news release that the responses were promising for patients with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma who have no other treatment options. While it is an early study of a small patient group, the results could have important implications for other Juno treatments, primarily JCAR017, which also contains the one-to-one ratio and is currently in a phase 1 study.

Mark J. Gilbert, Juno’s chief medical officer, said in a release that insights from the study could aid development of future therapies. The study was conducted by scientists at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Juno Therapeutics, and the University of Washington. It was funded in part by Juno Therapeutics, in addition to funding from the National Institutes of Health, Washington state’s Life Science Discovery Fund and the Bezos Family Foundation.

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